A House At The Bottom Of The Lake by Josh Malerman is a book that will confuse and excite. In A House At The Bottom of the Lake, we follow a couple who find…a house at the bottom of a lake.
James and Amelia are going on their first date. James has planned for them to canoe and picnic in the boat on a private lake off a more massive, more public lake. Amelia notices a tunnel that leads to a third, even smaller lake as they are enjoying their time. Curiosity and the need to impress Amelia get the better of James, and he agrees to push the canoe through the tight fit of the tunnel. As they get to the third lake, they find the roof of a completely intact house at the lake’s bottom.
They decide to explore this house. The house has furnishings all in good condition, and somehow, stuck to the ground as if it is not even under the water. James and Amelia decide to take diving lessons and get diving gear to continue exploring the lake. Time passes, and the couple falls in love. The house becomes their house, and they become addicted to the thrill of exploring.
Amelia insists on just one rule, though, no asking how or why.
“No hows or whys.”
“We don’t ask how the house ended up there and we don’t ask why it’s furnished. We don’t ask how or why it works.”
This story makes you uncomfortable. Marketing this as horror doesn’t seem quite right for it. Nothing about it is particularly scary, but the entire book has an undercurrent of discomfort that you can’t quite put your finger on. The couple is drawn to this house, and it’s magic, but they both seem to regret setting the rule about not asking those two questions. Everything for them becomes about the place, and when they try to take a break- the house comes to them.
This was a relatively quick read. I read it all in one sitting. The entire time I was waiting for something horrible to happen to the couple. This was somewhat because of the marketing for horror and the intense tension the writing creates. You expect something dangerous to occur, and yet, it doesn’t.
“Some people meet for coffee. Some for drinks. Men and women meet for drinks. Happens all the time.”
“But us? We’re taking turns in a crazy place.”
She liked that. Taking turns in a crazy place. Sounded like…like love.
Without spoiling anything, the ending of this was frustrating. I felt like I was given only 25% of a story, and just as things were peaking, that story ended. I wanted to understand the house, the things they found in it, and what Amelia finds in the end. This is a short book, but I felt the ending was dissatisfying, which takes a star away from this review.
Malerman did an incredible job of giving you an eerie, uncomfortable feeling the entire time you read this, and I can’t take that away from my review. The building up was intense, and the palatable claustrophobia unparalleled. Reading this truly made me want to read Bird Box and not just enjoy the movie’s memes that flooded the internet not too long ago.
“We found a dangerously magic place. A place to fall in love. But we lost it. And we don’t know where it went.”
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.