(reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer MAY 15, 2004)
“You’re going to have to do better than this,” she told the house. “I’m going to wash my hands of you. I mean it.” She stuck her hands into the pockets of her raincoat and flapped it open and shut a few times as though in supplication.
She looked sternly around the room once more. She locked up before leaving. She did so tenderly, as though to make up.
The house sold the following Monday.”
The house at 362 Belisle street sounds like a dream home...even I, country girl that I am, would gladly move to the suburbs to live in this place. It has pleasant surprises...a Murphy bed that when up inside the wall is perfectly hidden, a small child’s bedroom decorated with boards from a real barn, a bathroom with an antique, claw footed tub. So what if sometimes the Murphy bed comes down on its own, that the cupboard behind the barn door seems to lead to another world, or that the claw footed tub fills itself with water and drains away...and sometimes a ghost of a suicide is in the tub, the water painted with his blood?
Alright. So maybe it doesn’t sound like a place I’d give up the country for. I hear enough sounds in the middle of the night, thank you.
But it is an interesting place, as three different families and one realtor will find. These people are all hurting in some way, and the house seems to play on these wounds. The house seems to cherish Glenn, a newly widowed real estate agent whose job is to find suitable owners for 362 Belisle. The first couple she sells the house to are the Masons...Daniel, recently out of work, but working on a comic book, Rebecca, an ambitious and upwardly mobile health care professional whose resentment towards her husband puts a definite strain on their marriage. After a shocking tragedy, the next family to move in is newly divorced Barbara Parkins and her son Petey. Petey has a weight problem, spurred by the fact that food is his only comfort. Even though his mother tries hard, the fact is the sudden divorce has deeply hurt them both. Barbara, once a happy housewife, has a very hard time coming to grips with her new life. Instead of the quiet menace the house greeted the Masons with, the house treats these two injured birds much better, giving Petey new friends. After they leave, the final man comes to live. Richie Bramley is a drunken writer who feels his life and words are spinning out of control (yet he can’t accept that he, like his father, may be an alcoholic). Drinking is obviously ruining his life...and it’ll take a dose of unreality from the house to put him back on track...at least one hopes.
This tale goes far beyond the usual haunted house idea. Most stories base the haunted house on one major thing happening...one major tragedy that draws other tragedies, and the horrors build one upon another, filling the house with sorrow and spirits. The house on Belisle is the sum of its parts...the haunted things are brought to the house, installed....and they bring the tragedies into the house with them. Whether coincidence or purpose, the original owners gathered all these haunted items into this one place, and it has it’s effect. The house is now cursed...or blessed...depending on the point of view. It’s also not straight horror. Granted, even the most benevolent parts have their seriously creepy moments. Even so, the horror is tempered with a gentleness sometimes, and sometimes the prose Moloney uses is really very beautiful.
I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for a good spooky house story, but this tale is definitely a cut above the usual, bitter and sweet all at once, and haunting in all the connotations of the word.
- Amazon readers rating: from 31 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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- The official website for Susie Moloney
- Montreal Mirror review of A Dry Spell
- BookLoons review of The Dwelling
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About the Author:
Susie Moloney was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She left home at 16 and had her first son at 19. After her son was born, she attended the University of Winnipeg and kept writing stories. She had her first story published when her son was two. She also studied Journalism at a community college. Though mostly unemployed, she did have some interesting jobs such as writing scripts for a news magazine show for teenagers, a clown and editor for a not-for-profit arts magazine.
After briefly living on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, her and her husband and their son live in Manitoba.