I don’t know Sager. Home Before Dark is my first Sager read. But that doesn’t stop me from having a theory on the origins of this story.
If I had to guess, I would say Sager probably watched Haunting of Hill House in 2018 and was like huh, that was pretty good. Then they probably thought to themselves, what’s the other book/movie kinda like that? Oh yeah, Amityville House. That was pretty good too. I think I’ll write something basically the same but to make it ‘unique’ I’ll throw in a twist ending.
Unfortunately the one big tweak wasn’t enough to save the book and distinguish it as it own work. And in my opinion, the ending was by far the worst part.
Plot summary: This family moved into an old fixer upper with a dark past (a la Amityville) but they only stay 20ish days (Amityville). The Dad writes a book about their time there (Hill House and Amityville) that pretty much defines the rest of the family’s lives (Hill House). It is especially haunting to Maggie who was five at the time but is grown up now and can’t escape what that house did to her (Hill House). So once her Dad dies the house is passed down to her, she decides to go back and cleanse the house from her system once and for all (Hill House).
Which, is a really intriguing set up. There’s a reason that haunted house/gothic tale is such a successful trope. And I was like, well everyone says this is super scary, let’s see how Sager puts their spin on it. Unfortunately, there’s very little spin and what we do get happens like 50 pages from the ending.
Speaking of the ending, it felt so out of place.
And in light of that, I wouldn’t put this under horror. I’d put it under mystery, like Turn of The Key. I won’t continue to talk about the ending in case you do want to read this one, but it was so poorly done. And rushed. And anti climatic.
But plot wasn’t my only issue.
Maggie. First of all, Maggie spills her guts out to every single random person she meets. The police woman, the handyman, the woman who works at the bakery. Like, ok fine, tell the police, but you didn’t think you should maybe not tell everyone every single detail of your life with that house? Zero self preservation skills.
Also, Maggie has built her whole life on that idea that the book her Dad wrote was entirely lies. Like start to finish, lies. Which is a lot of faith in her Dad’s fiction abilities considering he was a freelance reporter. But any way, she finds out there are small details that are true, like 10 of them, and every single time she makes that discovery, her world is totally rocked. Like at one point she says the room spun and it felt like the chair was sinking beneath her. Really? Again? Couldn’t you just be like ok, some of the book is true and some isn’t. Instead we relived the chaos of discovery 19 times.
Rereading this, it sounds like I hate the book. I don’t.
I didn’t think it was scary or particularly well plotted but it was still fine. And it only took me about a day to read so I can’t complain too much. I’m not sure I’ll read Sager again, since the let down was real, but I might! For now, I’ll stick with thrillers that call themselves thrillers and rewatch Hill House.
Speaking of spooky vibes. Have I mentioned that I recently watched Interview With a Vampire for the first time and I was shook squad? It’s the most absurd, kinda terrible movie ever and I loved it. Mostly for Brad (obvi) but also it did make me want to pick up the book. Who knows, maybe I’ll finally read and Anne Rice!