Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Uninvited - Steven LaChance


Yes, I will admit I am a book snob. I was actually embarrassed to carry this one around with me. But it was the next selection for our book club, so I had no choice. I was even embarrassed when I went into Barnes & Noble to buy the book, as it was buried deep within the "New Age" section. But see, this is the beauty of book clubs...we read books that I would never in a million years pick up on my own.

Here was the appeal: it was our October selection, and it was a true story about a haunted house in a small town near St. Louis MO. Time to open our minds!

Steven LaChance was a single dad with three children trying to make ends meet, skipping around from apartment to apartment. He found an ad for a house (with a backyard!) for a very reasonable price. The ad said it was perfect for kids. Sold!

Well, our mothers teach us that if it seems too good to be true...which was the case here. As early as move-in day, weird things started happening. Pictures fell off the wall. Rooms got suddenly cold. Electric energy would pass through their bodies. They saw shadowy figures aggressively approaching them, they heard screaming, they saw bodies hanging from the trees. It didn't take long before they got the hell out, and the house was rented to another family.

The next family wasn't so smart. They could not afford to move once the bullshittery started, so they decided to seek help and try to ride it out. Steven felt compelled to help out these poor souls, and befriended Helen, the grandmotherly woman of the house. The longer she stayed, the more serious the hauntings became. She was "raped" by a dark figure in the house. She had bites and bruises on her body. She started acting possessed just shy of pea soup, and had impulses of suicide and homicide.

They learned that the house was built over land that was once a burial ground for slaves. They sought help from psychics, priests and medical personnel. Eventually, both Steven and Helen recovered from their experience, and Steven has dedicated himself to helping others with similar issues.

Do I believe it? That is hard to say. I am a very open-minded gal, and this guy seems pretty earnest. I couldn't find any skeptical evidence against him online. He even has (questionable) pictures taken within the house. I guess I can go with it...why not, just for grins?

I was, however, a bit put-off by Mr. LaChance's flair for the dramatic. He kept pulling out these corny lines like "That was the beginning of Helen's last week in the house, but the start of many new nightmares for us both" and "In the years to come I would try to figure out why it all went so wrong so fast". I was frustrated by Helen's refusal to leave the house. She called Steven alot in the middle of the night, she cried alot, she asked for help alot. Here's the deal. If a spirit were raping me, I think I'd live in a homeless shelter before I spent one more night in that house, so I found all of this a bit hard to swallow. I was beleaguered with questions like...if Mr. LaChance was so disturbed by his experiences in the haunted house, why did he keep going back, even after he'd moved? Why did he blame everything bad that happened to him (even after he'd left the house) to some demon that apparently wanted him dead? Personally, I think at this point, La Chance was milking it. Coincidentally, he had become unemployed right about this time and perhaps needed an income stream?

On the positive side of things, La Chance did find God as a result of his tribulations. And he has dedicated himself to helping others suffering from evil beasties find God as well.

The book club's takeaway:

Most of the book club found the book to be frightening. Like "I can't read this at night" frightening. As a whole, we all agreed we could believe in the idea of spirits...almost everyone had a story about other-worldly things that had happened to them or a friend, particularly around the time they had lost a loved one. There was some discussion about the sensitivity of children and pets to these types of things (kids who had "seen" and talked to dead grandparents), and the fear of anything weird that happens between 3am and 5am. One member of the book club even once worked for a group of ghost hunters that went around the country investigating occurances, attempting to prove their falsehood. We all agreed that the prose in the story was pretty lame and pedestrian. Overall, however, I think most of the club members liked the story a bit more than I.


2.5 out of 5 stars


23 comments:

Melody said...

Not sure if I'd read this book though...but it does sound a little scary.

One of the good things about joining bookclubs is you get to hear different opinions from everyone, and having a great discussion out of it!

violetcrush said...

wow...true story about a haunted house? Wow...that would have been enough encourage for me to pick the book. But it's sad the book isn't as good. But atleast you got to try something new :)

C.B. James said...

It does sound like fun, but remember The Amityville Horror? That was a big "true story" about a haunted house very popular back when I was in middle school. Everyone who was anyone at school read it, was creeped out by it, believed it, wanted to see the movie.

Shortly after that it was all thoroughly debunked. There were even books about what a fraud it all was.

I've been a skeptic ever since.

JoAnn said...

Now that is a creepy cover! Had to laugh at your embarrassment in B&N. Bookclubs are great at getting us outside out comfort zones, but I don't think I'll be reading this one any time soon.

farmlanebooks said...

I love reading different selections at a book group and don't mind not liking the book if it generates a good discussion. I have been embarrassed buying books before, but normally that is because they are about sex (they sell well!) and the little old ladies in the charity shops give me horrible looks!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Well it may not have been a good book, but it made for a fun review!

caite said...

hey, at least there was not a picture of a half nekked guy on the cover,like those romance novels...at least it was not a Nicholas Sparks book...lol

I think I would have been more interested in it if it was fiction rather than a 'true' story.

bermudaonion said...

A book like that would totally creep me out and keep me from sleeping, even though I don't believe in haunted houses!

ds said...

The book may be awful, but your review was a great read!

CelticLady said...

I read this book, I was intriqued by the cover I guess. I like to read scary stories, the scarier the better. Whether I believed Steven Chances story?? Not sure...

As far as scary, I think the Amityville Horror was scarier.

Good review!!

Ti said...

The bullshittery... I love it. This cover is HORRID though.

Oh and I believe in this stuff. I had something happen to me once and it lasted for quite some time. Other people witnessed it happening too so no fancy 'jacket' for me.

Amy said...

Great review Sandy! I would have been a little embarassed to buy this book too...and something should be done about this cover! It's too bad about the awful prose and the author's flair for the dramatic. I haven't had any experiences with spirits or ghosts so I'm not so sure what I think about all that. But I do believe when other people say they have and how its affected them. I think it stinks that some people lie about scary situations with ghosts and spirits, saying something happened to them when it didn't because it makes it more difficulkt for people who actually experience something. Amityville Horror is an awful example of this type of thing.
It sounds like you had a really interesting discussion with your book club and, as others pointed out, that's one of the great things about reading most books even the ones that aren't that great or that have some major problems. I'd love to hear some of the stories from your friend who worked for the group that tried to debunk ghost tales!

So what's your book club reading next?!

Kathleen said...

Thanks for being honest. This sounds like one I can skip!

Amy said...

Hmmmm. Not my style. I like reading ghost stories and myths and "true" ghost stories, but you're right...I'd want out after I got raped once!!!!

Also what's up with blaming the poor souls of slaves? Also disturbing.

Alyce said...

This book would scare the crud out of me I'm sure, average writing or not. When I was in bed the other day with a fever I watched four episodes of "A Haunting" on the Discovery channel. It's a documentary/dramatic recreation of real hauntings. (Normally I would never watch this stuff on tv, but I was on that channel and got sucked in.)

The one thing that struck me in each of these stories was that every single family had at least one family member who was unwilling to move out of the house. In most cases the entire family was determined to ride it out and reclaim their house via blessings and exorcisms. I told my husband that if anything like that happened to me I'd be out of the house in an instant and hiring someone else to pack my stuff.

I'll say this for those types of shows (and books too I'm sure) - they'll put the fear of God into you.

Andreea said...

Thanks for your honest review, Sandy! I don't think I will read this one, though!

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

LOL, I'm a book snob too! I actually started scrolling right by this review based on the cover of the book, but then noticed it was on your blog, so I had to go back and read it! This wouldn't be my cup of tea either, but it is nice to get outside of your comfort zone sometimes.

Dar said...

I think this may be something I'd like. I like scary. We lived in a haunted house when I was a baby so my parents say. I sure wouldn't want to now though. Sounds like the book generated quite a bit of discussion for your group though and that's one good thing.

Jeane said...

It sounds like the kind of book that I would not be able to read at night, either. Give me nightmares!

Literary Feline said...

Thank you for your great review, Sandy. This probably would not be a book I would have picked up on my own either, I admit. Like you, I'm skeptical but open minded. I think I would have many of the same questions as you did had I been reading this.

Anna said...

Not sure whether I believe it, but it does sound like an interesting story.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Dez Crawford said...

I just stumbled across your blog. I'd like to say that I am acquainted with Mr. Lachance and when he first put his story out there, it was on a bulletin board about hauntings called "The Shadowlands," and his intent for posting was to hope someone would believe him, to assure him that he was not crazy. Having lived through a severe haunting myself, I replied to his message and told him that I believed him. This began a long correspondence while he tried to find SOME rational reason for the goings on. While he and his family lasted only about a month, the following family stayed, believing they could "ride it out," which is what happened to me and my husband. We decided that, as sane people, we could find rational explanations for these things ... we could make it go away ... etc. We lasted three years and I still wake up with nightmares form that house -- 20 years ago. Some of the main reasons people stay are: they think they can conquer or exorcise the haunting, they think there must be a rational explanation, they are locked into a lease they can't get out of, they have a home they can't sell (and in these cases they can't just opt to be "homeless" if they have kids in school who need an address, or a divorced parent needing to keep a stable address for child custody, etc. I like to say that people stay in severely haunted houses for the same reason people stay with abusive spouses: they think things will change and they believe they can change them.
I do believe Steven's story is real. He went back to the house to try to help the following tenant and her children. If you've never lived in a haunted house you can't imagine the courage it takes to do it. Steven does have a taste for melodrama, and I've suggested to him to take it easy on the exclamation points myself. But it's part of his personality, not unlike the newscasters of old who would inject own their emotion into the story. It might feel funny to read if you're accustomed to highly polished writers, but his book comes from real experience and from the heart.

eliza Braatz said...

I did just read this book. It is very creepy living very close to the Union area I have always heard about the screaming house but never what happened in it.. This book was vry interesting an being a paranormal investegator I would love to investigate this house