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.