by Lauren Oliver
Expected Publication Date: September 23, 2014
Length: 320 pages
Obtained Via: Borrowed from the library
View at the Traffic light:
Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.
But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.
The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.
Elegantly constructed and brilliantly paced, Rooms is an enticing and imaginative ghost story and a searing family drama that is as haunting as it is resonant.
Apparently I like Lauren Oliver’s writing best when it focuses around death. This was the first book from Oliver that I really enjoyed since Before I Fall. Rooms is the story of the Walker family as told by two ghost who have lived in the house–and through the house. As the Walkers come back to town to square things away after Richard Walker dies, another ghost also appears in the house and brings several mysteries.
The two ghost who observe everything are Alice and Sandra. They’ve been together in the house for awhile, and they have a. . . testy relationship. They come from different generations, and Alice is prim and proper while Sandra is open and sometimes vulgar. However, they’ve been together, both fused into the house for so long, that they’ve mostly gotten use to being with each other.
Rooms can be described as a “family drama”, and normally I stay away from books like that AT ALL cost. Almost nothing makes me put a book back on the shelf faster than seeing the words “moving saga of a family” or something to that effect. Those types of books are very popular, especially in literary fiction, but they’re just not my thing. However I trusted Lauren Oliver to do this type of story justice and she did!
I was afraid at the beginning of Rooms that I would have to follow a cast of miserable characters just for the sake of misery, but Oliver did a good job in exploring all the character’s motivations and WHY they were those ways. It’s especially impressive considering that there’s quite a few characters the book really hones in on and it’s not very lengthy. Oliver manages to say a lot about each character without spilling too much ink. It’s subtle and below the surface, but it’s definitely all there.
Ghosts, both literal and figurative, are everywhere in Rooms. Sandra and Alice are ghost themselves, but they also have their own baggage from their lives that they’re carrying with them. They may be haunting the Walker house, but they’re just as haunted by either what they did or what happened to them when they were living. The Walkers are haunted not only by Sandra and Alice, but their own secret. Everyone has something that’s following them.
The, of course, there’s the fact that a new ghost has appeared in the Walker house. This is one of the central mysteries of Rooms. I was quite confused by where this plot line seemed to be headed, but then Oliver did something fantastic with it. I’d say that Rooms is more character-driven than plot-focused, but what IS there in the plot is well-crafted.
While I loved Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, her latest books haven’t quite been hits with me–until Rooms. Perhaps it’s the subject matter or the fact that this is one of her “quieter” books in awhile, but Rooms reminded me just why I love Oliver’s writing in the first place. Rooms is well-plotted and filled with beautiful prose. 4/5 cupcakes.