A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman #bookreview #magicalrealism #TuesdayBookBlog

Both seventeen. Both afraid. But both saying yes.

It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever.

It’s got two stories.

It’s got a garden.

And the front door is open.

It’s a house at the bottom of a lake.

For the teens, there is only one rule: no questions. And yet, how could a place so spectacular come with no price tag? While the duo plays house beneath the waves, one reality remains:

Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home.

When I requested this from NetGalley, I didn’t realize it was originally released in 2016. Reading reviews from that time, it looks like this novella was categorized as horror – which is absolutely isn’t. On Amazon, it’s now listed as coming of age and magical realism, which are much more appropriate descriptions.

Can I just say how cool this cover is? The eerie colors and perspective of the boat above the house just draw you in, and it helped me visualize the house as James and Amelia explored it underwater.

I’ve read three other books by this author and enjoyed them all, especially Bird Box. While I liked both of these teen characters and was riveted by their growing obsession with the house and their discoveries, I had to shove my disbelief out of the way several times to continue on with the story. Their first exploration of the house is done by holding their breath, but they quickly realize that’s not possible if they want to get through all of it. Then they bring an old diving suit which requires an air compressor. With only one suit, each of them takes a turn and also helps the other change in and out of it. Keep in mind all of this happens in a canoe – which is apparently large enough to hold hundreds of feet of hose and a heavy air compressor and is miraculously stable enough to never capsize. James and Amelia then decide to become certified divers, something I’ve never done, but I’d think requires more than a handful of days.

Once I pushed all that aside, I enjoyed this tale, which at times is eerie, claustrophobic, and even heartwarming, but it’s not my favorite by Malerman. For me, the ending is a thing of beauty and not what I’d expected.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

34 thoughts on “A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman #bookreview #magicalrealism #TuesdayBookBlog

  1. I’ve seen this book around the blogosphere and was intrigued by it. I love magical realism, but after reading your review I’m not sure I’d enjoy this one. The things you mentioned amount to a LOT to overlook!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s gotten very mixed reviews, Mae. When it was originally released, many reviewers were disappointed that it wasn’t actually a horror story. I think the new category better represents it, but there’s a lot to overlook. We lived on a lake for nearly fifteen years, so I had to suspend the disbelief quite a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good review. I tried to read this one. The story idea (and yes, the cover) attracted me. But I kept having to re-read passages because I didn’t click with the writing style. I totally understand why others would love the book though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The reviews seem to be polar opposites with this one. Parts of it worked for me, but others left me scratching my head. Still, it wouldn’t prevent me from reading anything else he writes.


  3. You are absolutely right about the cover, Teri! It is captivating. What a premise for a story, almost like going into another dimension. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I would agree about it being unrealistic to change in and out of a wetsuit in a canoe. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a very intriguing review, Teri. I agree completely about that beautiful cover. The concept of the story is engaging — so I appreciate your mindful comments about the several things that were, well, off. Depending on my mood, that might be a minor annoyance, or get under my skin so much that it kept me from enjoying the story. Knowing this in advance makes me more likely to enjoy it Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It didn’t prevent me from enjoying the story, but I got hung up on it for a bit. It was the ending that threw many reviewers, but I thought it was perfect. Different views from different readers, lol. Hugs,Teagan!


  5. Hi Teri, sounds a bit like you had to stretch the ‘suspension of disbelief’ a bit with this one. At least you found it entertaining when you put that aside. It reminds me of a place near here, where they flooded the Saint Lawrence River to build a Dam, back in the 1950’s. Most of the homes where moved prior, but their foundations are still there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Like I was telling Jessica above – where we previously lived, manmade lakes covered abandoned towns. From what I read, it’s a pretty popular place for divers. How weird would that be to seen underwater?

      Liked by 1 person

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