Sunday, February 15, 2009

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White



10. The House on Tradd Street
by Karen White
fiction, 2008
paperback, 329 pages
finished 2/15/09







"I see dead people" is the famous line from The Sixth Sense, a movie which both fascinated and frightened me in pretty much equal parts. The difference between the movie and this book is the dead in the movie don't know they are dead, while those in the book do know. They come to visit and talk with Melanie Middleton seeking her help. Some of them need her to tell something to a loved one; some of them give her advice; some are waiting around for her to solve a problem that occurred while they were still alive.

Melanie has seen and spoken with the dead since she was a little girl, a quality she shares with her mother, who left her husband and child when Melanie was very young. This highly successful real estate woman learned a long time ago that the 'gift' or 'curse' should be kept locked in her heart, the same way she has locked away her grief at the loss of her mother. She's very tough on the outside; organized, beautiful, and seems to have it all, but as Mr. Lennon so aptly put it, she's 'crippled inside.'

When we first meet her, she has come to 55 Tradd Street hoping to get the listing on one of Charleston, South Carolina's desirable historical houses. Before she even goes inside, she sees a woman in 'an old-fashioned dress' pushing a swing. Her meeting with the owner of the house is going to completely change her life, but she doesn't know this. She can see the dead but she cannot see the future.

I really enjoyed this book, and I'd walk from room to room holding it in front of my nose during the day, and staying up reading very late at night because I couldn't put it down. When I wasn't reading, I was thinking about it. I loved the setting. I've read both fiction and non-fiction books set in Charleston, and it really does sound amazingly beautiful and very steeped in history. It is a perfect setting for a character who can't enter antique stores because she sees people, long-dead, living among their furniture. And Melanie is not the only one. Throughout the book, other people tell her about the phenomena they themselves are experiencing. She is able to reassure a little boy so he doesn't feel as crazy as she did at his age.

I was intrigued with the whole idea of communicating with the dead. We learn that not only does she see them, but the air changes temperature, and the smells around her change according to whether the 'ghost' is benevolent or malevolent. I liked the mystery element to the book which begins two days after Melanie visits the house on Tradd Street. The man dies, and leaves her the house. She can't sell it for a year. She must live in it for that time, and she must restore it using the money which he has also bequeathed to this amazed, and unhappy realtor. She hates old houses. Her own condo is white-walled and filled with new possessions. She doesn't want any visits from former occupants.

My only complaints about the book were with the main character herself. She makes some really stupid decisions, based on unsound reasoning. I don't like it when fictional women put themselves in unnecessary danger. My other complaint is purely personal. I'm not much for romance fiction where there's often an underlying misunderstanding and conflict between the male and female main characters. I know we are supposed to view it as the fallout from her past abandonment, but sometimes the character was just too much for me to take. Small potatoes, really. I will eagerly read the next one in the series.

I first heard of this book in November from Wendy. I called my local bookstore and ordered it for my daughter for Christmas, thinking I might want to read it myself sometime. She loved the book, as did her mother.

16 comments:

  1. Nan, I have this book on my nightstand. I was going to start it and then my bookclub picked a new book to read so I put it aside.

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  2. Oh, Sherri, I'd say start it as soon as you can. It's so, so good.

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  3. Ooo, this sounds like a very good read! Funny you should mention Sixth Sense as it played on TV this weekend, and I watched it, not for the first time. :)

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  4. Hmmm, got to put this on my "To Read" list for sure! Thanks for the great review.

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  5. Nancy, I thought of renting it again. Whew, it was a good movie. Those still, peopleless Philadelphia streets are a strong memory I have from it. It's been a lot of years since I've seen Sixth Sense, so I think I will. Thanks for the prompt. :<)

    Utah Grammie, let me know if you read it. I'd love to know what you think.

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  6. This sounds fantastic!! I must make sure to add it to my TBR list!!

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  7. Thought I would let you know that I received Pink Sugar through a British bookseller on Ebay and look forward to reading it ... at your recommendation!

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  8. I have plopped this onto the pile in my Amazon shopping cart!!

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  9. I have this book around here somewhere. I need to hunt it up and put it near the top of the stack. Loved your review. I think I will have to watch Sixth Sense sometime soon. It scared me but I loved it anyway. I've been like that since a little girl. Loved ghost stories and ghoulies.

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  10. Staci, Pamela, and Kay - I'll be interested to know what you think if you read it. I'm not a ghost story person at all (didn't even care for Topper), but this interested me, and I'd like to learn more about this phenomenon. I wonder how common it is? The Sixth Sense scared me, too, Kay but I was drawn to it the same way I was drawn to this book. I wonder what makes some people susceptible to sensing the presence of dead people and others not. I'm glad it doesn't happen to me and hope it never will!!

    And Becca, I am so touched you went to all that trouble to get the book. I'm quite sure you will love Pink Sugar. It is very special.

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  11. Sounds like a fun book to read. It does kind of sound like the TV series, Ghost Whisperers. I'll put it on my To Read list.

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  12. Kay, I think you'll like it. I haven't heard of Ghost Whisperers but will check Netflix (since we don't have tv).

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  13. I think I was put off ghosts by Dickens in A Christmas Carol, that book scared me a lot when I was young, this one does sound interesting though. Such a good review, as ever.

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  14. Thank you, anon., I know what you mean. I get creeped out pretty easily, but this book is more about helping the good ghosts rid themselves of the bad ghosts - if that makes any sense. No 'future' ghosts in this book as in C. Carol. Not scary, to me, but very interesting.

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  15. I haven't read anything by Karen White, but received an ARC of her latest book (On Folly Beach) a couple of months ago. The House on Tradd Street sounds like one I'd enjoy. And I loved The Sixth Sense! I need to watch it again!!

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  16. Les, it doesn't sound as scary as the Siddons book but it is really very good! I'm quite sure you would enjoy it. I must read the next one soon. Thanks for coming by this post.

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