A ghost story about evil puppets, strange noises, and the lasting bonds between an estranged family, acclaimed horror author Grady Hedrix recently released his 2023 bestseller, “How To Sell A Haunted House.” The novel is a satirical take on the way families deal with the death of a loved one (with lots of fun scares) and masterfully captures the division and connection that can come from the inevitable.
Louise Joyner is living a successful life in San Francisco as a single mother. When she finds out that her parents have passed away in a car crash under strange circumstances, she travels back to her childhood home in Charleston, South Carolina. There she engages in a battle of ‘what would they want if they were here’ with her brother Mark.
This real-life trope of ‘what would they want’ is very present throughout the book, and is one of the most realistic and well-written aspects. It helps the reader connect to the characters and their experience as people as opposed to words on a page. Louise and Mark argue about basically everything when it comes to how the deaths should be treated, and one thinks they knew the parents better than the other. The funeral services, of course, are a huge plot point in their overbearing sibling rivalry. The next major plot point is selling the house. How do you deal with two different people, with equal standing in the will, one wanting all the money and keeping no sentimental value and the other wanting to cherish everything and prepare the house to be a home again? Their mother made puppets as a job in her lifetime, and the puppets still eerily linger around their vacant house as little reminders that, yes, this is a horror novel.
Louise and Mark have their first encounter with each other in decades at the house, and it starts with an argument. However, a problem soon presents itself to the siblings. The house is haunted, and therefore won’t be easy to sell. In the adventure of figuring out why their parents really died and coming together as people, we hear an amazing quote from a realtor that could summarize almost the entire plot of the book, “Strange noises, bad vibes, your mom and dad recently passed—Your house is haunted and I’m not selling it until you deal with that.”
The book tackles topics that many of us can relate to family ties, sibling rivalry, the different ways we handle grief, and haunted houses. The scares in this book don’t come often, but when they do they are very well done. At its heart, this story shows the reader the ways people can bond and separate over the hardest thing we deal with in life: death. As a fun and scary story, How To Sell A Haunted House works amazingly. However, as an examination of what grief does to a person and of long-lasting sibling rivalry, the novel clearly shows how these two things intersect and defy each other. No matter what, after all that has happened, this novel shows you one clear thing: at the end of the day, we’re all just people who face things that, while they seem impossible, are just inevitable. Oh, and some of us are ghosts.