The House That Whispers by Lin Thompson
A marvelous story with the uneasy feel of a horror tale, but it turns out to be something very different haunting the Bradleys.
It’s the fall break at school, and Simon and his two sisters, Talia and Rose, are spending the week alone with their grandmother, Nanaleen, at her big old house in the foggy little town of Misty Valley, Kentucky. Mom and Dad are staying home in Louisville to talk and “reset,” whatever that means. Since their father lost his job, money has been tight, stress high, and everything seems wrong.
Eleven-year-old Simon is feeling the pressure, too. For quite some time, he’s known things weren’t right with him either. But with everything else that was going on, he didn’t want to be one more problem. Simon is one of three sisters, and no one knows Simon is the name he’s chosen for himself as the one that fits him best, as do the pronouns he and him. For a while, when anyone uses the name his parents gave him, he internally switches it to Simon; until now, it is immediate and natural. But the continued need to do so has sparked a growing anger deep within that is quickly becoming harder and harder to control.
When the three siblings are dropped off at their grandmother’s, Simon notices that even things there are somehow “off.” Nanaleen is having difficulties physically and mentally, and even the atmosphere in the house has changed, with shadowy figures glimpsed just out of sight and an ever-present sour odor of old unwashed towels.
With Simon’s older sister, Talis, spending less and less time with them and the odd scratching sounds coming from the walls, Simon and Rose investigate, worried that Nanaleen’s house is haunted by the restless spirit of her never-spoken-of sister, Brianna. But as the duo uncovers bits and pieces of Brie’s life, Simon starts to believe Brie is not the only spirit still around. There seems to be another presence in the house, and it is restless.
The House That Whispers is a marvelous story with the uneasy feel of a horror tale, but it turns out to be very different. Dealing with gender identity, family dynamics, how relationships transition over time, and even the realities of aging, the book touches on so many life changes that readers of all ages can relate to something within its pages.
Simon’s inner dialogue bounces around in much the same way as that of those struggling with ADD/ADHD. From the start, I sympathized with him, and that was just during the car ride getting to grandma’s. Readers are also privy to how his gender identity is in conflict, and middle-graders will get a glimpse into how he is affected.
With Talia at 13, Simon at 11, and Rose, a precocious eight-year-old, the three siblings are quite young to carry the weight of their parents’ uncertainty about their future together. But that’s just true to life. The kids know something’s up, but both mother and father keep the truth to themselves, thinking they are preventing them from worrying. Still, the children know deep down, and their minds are working overtime, creating even more dire scenarios for what is going on.
Grandmother Nanaleen is also declining before their very eyes, and it is confusing when the children notice some of the manifestations. The author does a stellar job revealing Nanaleen’s struggles and the children’s reactions and fears.
I recommend THE HOUSE THAT WHISPERS to readers of contemporary middle-grade fiction, coming-of-age, or facts-of-life stories. With its immensely relatable characters and the life changes they are witnessing or experiencing, this wonderful book kept me glued to its pages. It offers something for everyone, even after the reality of what is really haunting the Bradley family comes to light.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond Book Tours.