"Haunt" Book Review
Written by Laura Lee Bahr
2011, 316 pages, Fiction
Released on September 22nd, 2011
A trip. No, not the kind you take when you go somewhere, but something so cool, powerful, and out of the ordinary that it feels like an hallucinogenic drug experiment. Sitting down with some friends and having a beer at a nice bar is cool. Stepping out of that same bar five hours later after imbibing prodigal amounts of alcohol and running into a shoeless transvestite with a French accent that's running away from a naked, pistol-waving dwarf with a large unicorn tattoo on his chest and is screaming about the end of days? That's a trip. Laura Lee Bahr's Haunt is a ghost story with bizarro elements and a noir soul thrown in. In other words, the book is a trip.
This second paragraph is usually where I would give a detailed synopsis of the book. In this case, an attempt at doing that would give me a brain cramp. Here's what you need to know: Simon is a good looking, very talented, and somewhat insane journalist who may or may not be involved in the mysterious death of a young woman named Sarah. Richard is a man who works at an office but dreams about being a successful musician and lives in an apartment that's haunted by Sarah's ghost. She was found in her bathtub, but the combination of slashed wrists and death by asphyxiation, not drowning, makes her death a mystery. Simon and Richard become obsessed with her death, and Sarah comes and goes, sometimes acting as the best of narrators and sometimes creeping you out like the best of ghosts. To make things worse, sinister men in dark suits ominously hang around the edges of the story and your brain.
See? I told you it'd be impossible to tell you exactly what the novel is about. However, I can tell you what things Bahr does ridiculously well here. For starters, you need to leave your preconceived notions about time, space, and reality in a kitchen drawer. Bahr fully deconstructs typical narratives and then invents her own. For example, some of the chapters end in characteristic Choose Your Own Adventure style. Instead of allowing you to pick, the author gives you the result of both options, weaving together a story that seems to take place in two alternate realities without ever abandoning whichever one you try to convince yourself is real. Also, you are part of the book. Yes, you, dear reader, are a big part of Haunt, and what you go through is inescapable, freaky, and intense. Bahr, not satisfied with creating a unique storytelling mechanism, tore to shreds every conceivable way of creating points of view and shattered whatever dividing line is supposed to separate the reader from the characters in the book.
Haunt is dark, eerie, fast, sexy, and full of surprises. The characters are well developed and likeable/dislikeable in very different ways. Bahr's prose is stripped and straightforward, but nothing's missing from the descriptions and dialogues, which means readers will undoubtedly devour this book as soon as they get their hands on it. Despite all the things mentioned above, what truly makes this novel shine and will give you an instant craving for more of Bahr's fiction is the way the narrative wraps itself around you, immersing you in it while simultaneously letting you know you're at its mercy. It might also make you look out the window for men in dark suits while you try to make up your mind about what happened in Sarah's apartment.
Haunt will entertain and disturb you in equal measure, so I strongly suggest you take Bahr up on her offer and read this trip of a ghost story now.