Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Speculative Fiction: In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell

Publisher: Soho Press
Date: June 18, 2013
Format: ARC
Source: GoodReads First Look
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.)
Pages: 312
Reading time: five days

From GoodReads: In this epic, mythical debut novel, a newly-wed couple escapes the busy confusion of their homeland for a distant and almost-uninhabited lakeshore. They plan to live there simply, to fish the lake, to trap the nearby woods, and build a house upon the dirt between where they can raise a family. But as their every pregnancy fails, the child-obsessed husband begins to rage at this new world: the song-spun objects somehow created by his wife's beautiful singing voice, the giant and sentient bear that rules the beasts of the woods, the second moon weighing down the fabric of their starless sky, and the labyrinth of memory dug into the earth beneath their house.

My review: I like weird speculative fiction books, but I think this one was just a little too weird for me. I got that Bell is trying to make some (in my opinion, rather depressing) points about marriage and parenthood, but I wasn't sure exactly what he was trying to say. I would love to be able to have a conversation with him and ask what he was thinking as he wrote and why he picked this form of novel.

Overall, I think I liked this book for its uniqueness, if for nothing else. I'm not sure how I feel about how dark the story was. There was plenty that I definitely didn't really like. I found most of the characters' violent encounters with each other graphic and gross. Also, I had no clue when the book would end. There were several points where it felt like it could conclude, but then there were still dozens or even a few hundred pages left to get through. By the end, it seemed like the plot just kept going and going, and I was mostly lost as to what the underlying purpose of it all was.


  1. Full marks for an interesting title though! I like weird but I don't really like the focus on parenthood. Will probably give this one a miss.

    1. Is it not the longest title ever?!

      The whole marriage/parenthood thing king of threw me for a loop. It reminded me a lot of Ramona Ausubel's new story collection, A Guide to Being Born, but I enjoyed Ausubel's more for its diversity and briefness.