“The September House” by Carissa Orlando: Darkly Disturbing

A woman is determined to stay in her dream home even after it becomes a haunted nightmare in this compulsively readable, twisty, and layered debut novel.

When Margaret and her husband Hal bought the large Victorian house on Hawthorn Street—for sale at a surprisingly reasonable price—they couldn’t believe they finally had a home of their own. Then they discovered the hauntings. Every September, the walls drip blood. The ghosts of former inhabitants appear, and all of them are terrified of something that lurks in the basement. Most people would flee. 

Margaret is not most people. 

Margaret is staying. It’s her house. But after four years Hal can’t take it anymore, and he leaves abruptly. Now, he’s not returning calls, and their daughter Katherine—who knows nothing about the hauntings—arrives, intent on looking for her missing father. To make things worse, September has just begun, and with every attempt Margaret and Katherine make at finding Hal, the hauntings grow more harrowing, because there are some secrets the house needs to keep.

“The September House” by Carissa Orlando is darkly disturbing. Part of what makes it so disturbing is how effortlessly she tackles the concepts of abuse and the cycles within. She sets up your expectations clearly from the very beginning with the ghosts being introduced early on. But the relationships are the key to the story here, the underpinnings of abuse and alcoholism are sprinkled throughout the novel and creep in under your skin.

As the story unweaves and the reader learns more about the house and learns more from Margaret, we realize just how much Margaret is hiding. Her point of view is so in line with what abuse victims say and do to forgive the toxicity around them and their abusers. But it is the revelations and the possibilities that are so fascinating as Margaret’s and the house’s secrets slowly unravel. 

If you love ghost stories, this is one of the best that I’ve seen. The ending is empowered and speaks to the cycles of abuse both generationally but also with individuals. The revelations are deeply impactful and the characters just wiggle under your skin making you understand the darkness that haunts them. This is truly a darkly disturbing story but also a deeply powerful tale. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 ghosts. 

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