Grady Hendrix, author of such books as We Sold Our Souls and The Final Girl Support Group, is the master of balancing horror and wit. After tackling vampires, slashers, demonic pacts and evil superstores, his new book, How to Sell a Haunted House, tackles the most terrifying thing of all: family. Oh, and also haunting spirits who possess clown dolls and homemade masks. Louise and Mark are adult siblings who have very good reasons to be estranged, but when their parents die unexpectedly, they have to work together just one more time in order to get their house into saleable shape. In addition to the standard wear and tear of old houses, this one is filled with puppets their mother used to teach Sunday school lessons.
Louise and Mark wrestle with hauntings that go far beyond anything openly supernatural- dysfunction in their family that nobody was ever allowed to speak of, but which everyone secretly knew was there. Make no mistake, though, the supernatural is very real and very, very deadly. There are puppets who turned a political theater troupe into agents of random violence, there’s an imaginary friend locked in the attic with too many legs and far too many teeth, and then there’s the leader of it all, a creature called Pupkin whom their mother seemed to love more than her own children. In order to combat any of this, the siblings have to admit that it’s happening, and the reasons why they’ve spent so many years hating each other.
How to Sell a Haunted House is terrifying, moving, and even a bit goofy at times. Hendrix is wonderful with characters, and even the creepy clown puppets have reasons to do what they do. Moreover, he doesn’t even write off those puppets as simply creepy, but lovingly describes the beauty of theater and the freeing chaos of working from behind a toy or a mask. It’s a page turner that will stay with you long after you’ve breezed through it, and maybe it will even convince you to start telling the truth about your own family history, even if it’s only to yourself.