Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Maggie Holt doesn’t want to go home again. In fact, she desperately wants to avoid revisiting the rambling house that she and her parents fled years ago. But, at the reading of her dad’s will, Maggie learns that not only did Ewan never sell that mansion, but now it’s hers.
A house-flipping designer by trade, Maggie is determined to get in and out of the house as quickly as possible with as much profit as she can. You see, the house is a Hell House, full of mystery and vengeful spirits, if you believe the book that Ewan wrote shortly after the family escaped a near death experience. Maggie doesn’t believe her father’s stories and resents him for profiting off of the their family’s pain, so she’s more concerned about the memories being in the house will bring rather than the spirits that may still be present.
I really enjoyed this book, my first from author Riley Sager. I can’t share too much without spoiling the plot, but I can tell you that reading this book at night definitely left me feeling spooked. I rarely read horror or scary books, so this was way outside my comfort zone. I’m glad I was pleasantly surprised and have since purchased two more Sager books for my to-be-read shelves.
What I liked About Home Before Dark
- The writing: Sager can tell a story! This is a very atmospheric novel, and I could feel the setting around me. The pace was fast but not too fast, and the story kept me turning pages.
- The format: Home Before Dark is a book-within-a-book. Maggie is the protagonist and present-day narrator, but we get Ewan’s point of view with alternating chapters taken from his novel about the Holt family’s experience. This format was a great narrative device to move the story forward.
- The characters: I love an unreliable narrator, and Home Before Dark gave me two! Maggie is resentful and her blocked memories made me question her truth. Separately, we learn early on that Ewan Holt made millions off his book about the house, and that poses an ethical question of what the real story is. I didn’t know who was telling the truth, and that kept me engaged.
In short, Home Before Dark was a great read. It’s spooky and fast-paced, and I look forward to reading my next Sager book.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
A Five-Star Book Review
Do you enjoy video games? I played Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt when I was a kid (yes, I’m that old), but I’ve never gotten into console games. Well, I did have a couple periods of life in which I was obsessed with The Sims and Candy Crush. I’ve never felt compelled to dig deeper into games. I’m much more interested in finding another book to read.
Given my general disinterest in gaming, I was hesitant to pick up Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (Tomorrow x3) by Gabrielle Zevin. But, as they say: #BookstagramMadeMeDoIt. And I am so glad it did!
Tomorrow x3 is a longform character study of two friends, Sadie and Sam, who met just before they became teenagers in the 1980s. They bonded over their love of video games while Sam and Sadie’s sister Alice were in the hospital, but then lost touch until they run into each other in Massachusetts during college. That chance meeting begins a journey of friendship as they build a groundbreaking new video game, Ichigo, and eventually form their own company, Unfair Games. Tomorrow x3 is a love story about these friends who never become romantically involved. It is a beautifully written, complex novel that shifts time periods, perspectives, and even brings you into the world of video games.
What I Loved about Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
- The characters: Sadie and Sam are the protagonists within the book, and they are flawed but fully developed characters who made me root for them as well as yell at them for poor decisions. However, my absolute favorite character in the novel was Marx, Sam’s Harvard roommate. Marx could have been a 2D side character, but Ms. Zevin brought him into the story as a real, human character. He is innately a good person who wants good for his friends, and that was so impressive. When I first started reading the Tomorrow x3, I thought Marx was going to be a stereotypical envious third wheel, but he’s not. I loved him!
- The representation: This book addresses race, mental health, disability, and sexuality. The representation is so well-represented here, and the author really refined each character’s struggles and experiences.
- The plot (and its sideplots): This book could have been a linear story told from two points of views – Sam’s and Sadie’s. But it’s not. There are flashbacks and shifts that create a more layered story. It brought so many nuances to the characters. What was also important to me is that the gaming industry was part of the story, but only as it benefits the characters and the plot. Those gaming sections brought more to the story.
- The writing: I highlighted so many passages in this book! Ms. Zevin is an amazing writer. Not only does she deliver beautiful prose, but also she leaves little moments of foreshadowing throughout the book. I love when an author uses that narrative device in a smart way. These moments weren’t blatantly obvious in the book, but I could tell when Ms. Zevin wanted us to prepare for something that was going to happen soon.
I was worried this book wouldn’t feel accessible to me because of the video gaming aspects, but it was so enjoyable. There is clearly a reason why Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin is getting accolades this year, including being named the Book of the Year by Book of the Month! I highly recommend this one!