The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom (audio)

Christopher Ransom’s The Birthing House was our latest book club selection, which was supposed to branch myself and Anna of Diary of an Eccentric out into the world of horror, etc.  I started off with an audio book I purchased from the bookstore, but finished up with a borrowed copy of the hardcover from the library.  OK, let’s get to the review.

Conrad Harrison and his wife Jo are having severe marital problems in The Birthing House, and as a way to rebuild his marriage away from the pressures of Los Angeles, Calif., Conrad buys a home in Black Earth, Wisconsin, following the death of his father.  Jo isn’t exactly thrilled with the birthing house or the fact that it was in a small town in the middle of nowhere, but she has little choice after Conrad gives her an ultimatum.

Readers will find moments of suspense and confusion in this novel, which could be traced back to the ability of the writer to properly sequence certain events.  Ransom has a knack for writing internal dialogue that adequately reveals characters’ true emotions and faults.  But in terms of creating a sense of fear in the reader, Ransom’s writing is hit or miss.

“He was starting to doubt that he had actually seen it move when the doll took another step — click — and then another after that one, moving with renewed purpose, as if it had just found what it was looking for.

But that’s crazy, because it has no eyes.

Conrad was splayed crooked on the bed, immobilized as the absurd stick figure doll, no wider than a scarecrow Barbie, came at him in rapid steps — click, click, click, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK! — and raised its pipe cleaner arms to attack.”  (Page 76)

It is clear that as the book moves on that Conrad is losing his mind, but how far has he lost it and how much of the haunting is real, and what is the history of this birthing house?  Ransom waits too long to reveal anything of substance about the birthing house, and readers will grow frustrated as Conrad wanders about, bumbling over the teen next door and her voluptuous, pregnant curves, while his wife is out of town for sales training.  In fact, the absence of Jo and her odd behavior on the phone leaves her character underdeveloped and almost pointless to the story until the final chapters.

“He wanted to touch the ghost, if that’s what it was, maybe even help it.  Her.  He was terrified, repulsed, and drawn to it as he was drawn to the girl and the destruction she would bring down.”  (Page 189)

There are many instances where The Birthing House reads like a bad horror movie in which the characters willingly put themselves in harm’s way and refuse to contact the police or outsiders fail to intervene.  Ransom is a good writer, but this novel falls flat.  The narrator of the audio book was good at differentiating characters’ voices, but the material in the novel made some of the scenes very comical when read out loud.  As a book club selection there is a great deal to talk about, but is it really worth the time spent?

To enter to win a copy of The Birthing House and/or Ravens (click for my review) on audiobook (GLOBAL):

1.  Leave a comment on this post about what horror book you’ve enjoyed.
2.  Facebook, Tweet, blog, or otherwise spread the word and leave a link on this post.

Deadline is March 30, 2010, 11:59 PM EST

This is my 4th book for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge, and I’m counting this as a horror thriller.

This is my 18th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure: Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

© 2010, Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Savvy Verse & Wit or Serena’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I would love to read this! Please enter me.

    A couple of books I read that I thought were scary were IT, and the Shining by Stephen King.

    I would not say that See Jane Run by Joy Fielding was scary at all. I guess the idea that someone could do what was done is scary but the book is not. It is a suspense, thriller type book. I LOVE Joy Fielding!

    lovemykidsandbooks AT gmail DOT com

  2. I've read mixed reviews about this book. The synopsis is so interesting that I added it to my TBR long ago. But I am yet to hear a satisfactory review that will persuade me to bump it up. Good review, yours!

  3. misskallie2000 says

    I follow you on twitter (@misskalllie2000)

    Just retweeted:

    Latest: SavvyVerseWit @bostonbibliophl go here for the signup form http://www.savvyverseandwit.com/2010/03/call-for-bloggers-to-celebrate-national.html Retweeted by you less than 10 seconds ago

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  4. Anonymous says

    the shining altime fav. thx for the contest..

  5. Susan Helene Gottfried says

    Pipe cleaner arms are a great visual, though. Funny or not.

    Anyway, no need to enter me. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book.

  6. Well of course Stephen King is THE writer of horror but some of Mary Higgins Clark's books would keep you on the edge of your seat. My favorite-Loves Music, Loves to Dance.I'd be willing to give this book a chance.

    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com



  7. Sandy Nawrot says

    The idea of dolls coming to life and attacking can be pretty scary. Still, I'm sorry to sound negative but it does sound a bit lame. With horror, I cut my teeth on Stephen King, so my standards are way up there!

  8. misskallie2000 says

    Christine was the last horror book I remember reading. Scared me silly then saw the movie and just as scary..LOL..King will do that to you.
    I would like to read this book and see if any good..LOL…Pls enter me in the giveaway.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  9. This is the first I've heard of The Birthing House and I'd love to give it a try.
    I've read almost all of Stephen King's books and I also enjoy the books his son (Joe Hill) has been writing.
    I've always been a fan of horror books and movies.

    reading_frenzy at yahoo dot com

  10. Linda Kish says

    I read more thrillers than horror but anything Dean Koontz is good.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  11. bermudaonion says

    I don't think this is for me, so I'm going to skip the giveaway.

  12. I don't read horror any longer because as I've gotten older I realize all of those crazy murder stories actually happen!!! LOL!!!

  13. I have been wanting to read the Birthing house! Please include me! thanks

    dcf_beth at verizon dot net

  14. bookaholic says

    To be honest,I steer clear of horror books..not my kinda genre I am afraid!

  15. Anna: If you hear this on audio…this particular section, you'd die laughing.

  16. No need to enter me, but I'll put the giveaway in my sidebar.

    Guess you felt the same way I did about this book, more ridiculous than scary. I think that section about the doll and its pipe cleaner arms that you quoted was the highlight of the book for me. I just about died laughing.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  17. Marjorie: I have not heard of that book. I'll have to check it out.

    Dar: I can't imagine why you haven't gotten too far! LOL I think the audio helped a great deal in this regard for me.

  18. I tried reading this book but didn't get too far. I'll probably finish it one of these days though. No need to enter me of course but I'll put this on my sidebar for you.

  19. I would like to win the Birthing
    House, the most scary book I have
    read is See Jane Run by Joy Fielding.

    cenya2 at hotmail dot com