Every year around Halloween, I try to pick up a scary book, which, of course, I’ll only read during the day to avoid nightmares…
Most times I turn to Edgar Allen Poe or The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, but this year I bought AMITY by Micol Ostow. Let’s just say I may have to borrow my toddler’s night light for a while.
Now, it's no surprise that I'm a big fan of Micol's work. Carrie and I took a writing class with her, which was just excellent. But, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is my favorite of all her books. If you liked the poetry and creepiness of FAMILY, which is also based on a true crime, you'll love this one.
AMITY tells the story of two different families living in the same creepy house, as the title of the book would suggest.
The book follows two brother/sister pairings. Connor and Jules Webb and ten years later, Luke and Gwen Hall. All four siblings are deeply troubled, in different ways, by the evil lurking in the “bones” of the house. Connor’s anti-social behavior worsens when he arrives and becomes trapped with his abusive father. His twin, Jules seems powerless to help him. Gwen, who we find out was institutionalized for hysterical outbursts senses something rotten about the house and how her brother is drawn to it, but is afraid to speak out for fear of being sent back for more psychiatric treatment. As in most YA novels, the parents are willfully ignorant of the danger. Only the teens are willing to face Amity’s past and what lies ahead.
Like any good horror book, the true fear comes from the ramifications on the characters’ psychological health rather than blood and gore, although there is enough specific details to terrify wimps like me. As Amity seeps into their dreams, their delusions, and their waking lives, the book started to remind me of Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher, where the house becomes an analogy of the minds and body of the characters.
The house itself becomes a character in the most vivid way. You can almost feel it breathing and watching you with its eye-like windows, which also reminded me of Poe’s master work.
Prepare to be freaked out, but also incredibly taken by the rich language and the excellent plotting. The book is very tightly wound, creating a claustrophobic feeling, an inevitable racing to the inevitable conclusion, which, despite the fact that you know most of what will happen, still feels fresh and surprising.
I highly recommend it to anyone in need of a scary but elegantly written read.