A chilling ghost story with a twist. “The Invited” takes place in rural Vermont and tells the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house, they start building one from scratch, without knowing it, until it’s too late…
The novel opens in the year 1924. Hattie Breckenridge is a seer. She predicts things before they happen. When she predicts that the school will burn, she keeps her daughter home on that day. The school burns, children die, and the townspeople blame Hattie. They come en mass to her home and lynch her.
Present Day – Helen and Nate Wetherell have quit their secure teaching jobs in Connecticut to move to rural Vermont. They have pooled the money they got from selling their condo with an inheritance from Helen’s father. They plan to build their dream house – by themselves. For some this would be a fool-hardy project, but they both have building skills. What they don’t have in manual skill, they have in enthusiasm. They buy acreage and, while living in an old decrepit trailer on the property, they proceed to build a saltbox style house.
Helen, a former history teacher, is also an historian whose field of expertise is early America. She wants to incorporate some old materials into her new home to give it some authentic history. When she learns that the land upon which they are building their house is reputed to be haunted, Helen is thrilled.
Nate, a former science teacher, scoffs at anything considered ‘paranormal’. He is an avid nature lover and keeps a notebook of his wildlife sightings. When he sees an albino deer on their new property near the bog, he becomes quite obsessed with getting a photograph of the animal…
Next we meet Olive Kissner, a fourteen year-old girl who lives down the road from Helen and Nate’s acreage. Olive does NOT want them here! She is on a mission to find some buried treasure that once belonged to Hattie Breckenridge and with the couple moving in, it spoils her plans. She tries to sabotage the build and freak out Helen and Nate by stealing from them… Eventually though, Olive becomes friends with the couple and even helps them in their work. Olive too is not without building skills. Since her mother ran off last year, she and her daddy have been remodeling their house in the hopes of making it nicer upon her mother’s much hoped for return.
Olive’s mother wore an unusual necklace. On a silver chain, it is comprised of shapes surrounding an eye. When Olive finds this necklace in the bog on Helen’s land, she fears that something bad might have happened to her mother…
“What if objects didn’t just hold memories, but held traces of the people who touched them, threads that connected them still?”
As the building progresses, Helen sources a beam made from the tree that Hattie Breckenridge was hung from. This item, along with several more, seem to invite ghosts into their new home…
Helen and Nate, once so close, seem to be becoming distant. They have simmering resentments and are keeping secrets from each other.
“That was the cruelest part about history, whether your own or a stranger’s from a hundred years ago – there wasn’t a damn thing you could do to change it.”
The title was perfect for the book. Instead of being afraid of the ghostly hauntings, the protagonist of this story actually ‘Invited‘ them. She wanted to see the ghost and help her in her mission to save her descendants.
The setting was idyllic, at least for me. Rural Vermont brings up lovely visions of beautiful countryside and stunning views.
Characterization was adequate, with my favourite character being the young Olive. A motherless teen who seemed very real and very vulnerable.
This is not at all a horror story. Nothing to be afraid of here. The ghostly visions were a bit on the creepy side, but not scary.
This is an original take on the traditional ghost story. After all, haunted houses are usually old buildings, not ones just being built. However, although the premise is original, the rest of the narrative is fairly predictable. It held my interest, but didn’t WOW me. An easy read.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Doubleday via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own. This unbiased review is my thanks to Doubleday and to the author.
“The Invited” is published by Doubleday and will be available for purchase on April 30, 2019. Jennifer McMahon was born in 1968 and grew up in her grandmother’s house in suburban Connecticut, where she was convinced a ghost named Virgil lived in the attic. She wrote my first short story in third grade. She graduated with a BA from Goddard College in 1991 and then studied poetry for a year in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. A poem turned into a story, which turned into a novel, and she decided to take some time to think about whether she wanted to write poetry or fiction. After bouncing around the country, she wound up back in Vermont, living in a cabin with no electricity, running water, or phone with her partner, Drea, while they built their own house. Over the years, Jennifer has been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, Easter Bunny, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and counselor for adults and kids with mental illness — She quit her last real job in 2000 to work on writing full time. In 2004, she gave birth to her daughter, Zella. These days, home is an old Victorian in Montpelier, Vermont.