Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt…well, everyone.
Grady Hendrix’s latest novel, HOW TO SELL A HAUNTED HOUSE, is an exploration of how family secrets have the tendency to cause utter chaos and destruction until the family members confront them head-on and start to heal.
Louise Joyner, the book’s protagonist, has her life together. At 39 years old, she’s a tech designer who’s so successful that she’s able to live comfortably in San Francisco with her five-year-old daughter Poppy, who she co-parents with her ex-boyfriend, Ian. Louise has a classic Type A personality, playing the part of a “cooker-cutter first child” against her estranged younger brother Mark—who, as an inconsistently employed college dropout who drinks heavily and regularly falls for scams, is her polar opposite.
When Louise and Mark’s parents die in a car accident, Louise travels back home to Charleston, S.C. to plan the funeral with her aunts and cousins and sort out the loose ends that unexpected deaths leave. There, she gets several nasty surprises: Mark insists on honoring their puppeteer mother by throwing a Jim Henson-esque funeral, due to technicalities in her parents’ wills, their house has been left to Mark while Louise is bequeathed the art collection that resides within the house including her mother’s puppets, and the house is most definitely occupied by a malevolent presence.
The two siblings find themselves thrown together and forced to work with each other to get rid of whatever is haunting their childhood home…and confront the secrets and traumas that have been haunting their family.
The premise of hauntings and familial strife is a familiar one. A cozy and comforting foundation for a story. Hendrix takes it to the next level with HOW TO SELL A HAUNTED HOUSE. The horror starts at the most basic, realistic level: the sudden death of both parents. From there, it steadily creeps up—an unsettling feeling here, a doll that seems to have moved by itself there—before exploding into multiple fits of paranormal rage.
The targets of the supernatural assaults are Louise and Mark, who are at each other’s throats for much of the story. The siblings have a troubled past that has left them with lingering resentments, anger, and pain. But after a brutal attack on Louise, they realize that the root of their conflict isn’t due to clashing personalities—it’s the result of unresolved intergenerational trauma. Isn’t it always?
That’s the central theme of HOW TO SELL A HAUNTED HOUSE: trauma, the inability to talk about it, and how that secrecy feeds it and lets it morph into something monstrous unless you deal with it head-on.
Through his signature quippy dialogue and sharp narrative style that spares no details and pulls no punches, Hendrix delivers a slasher-y, edge-of-your-seat tale of terror complete with a pack of creepy puppets, jump scares, and gory action sequences…but also dark humor, complex characters written with empathy and nuance, and a real tear-jerker of a climax. It’s spooky and funny, unsettling and cathartic—it’s quintessentially Grady Hendrix.
HOW TO SELL A HAUNTED HOUSE hits the shelves on January 17, 2023. You can purchase now with our Bookshop affiliate link.