by Herman Raucher ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 22, 1980
It's not only the Maine winter that'll raise goosebumps in this tale about a house that hangs onto a body even after he's dead; and it's all told with such an icy precision of eye and ear and a wink of wicked humor that you'll put up with the multitudinous whip-arounds of real and surreal. Austin Fletcher, a young Viet vet and a loner, is on his way to claim the wilderness house in northern Maine left to him by his dead army buddy, Maynard Whittier. And after barely making it through impressive snow (the natives make book on his survival, a bear-like station master rescues him), Austin knows two ""warming and irrefutable truths. He was home. He had been there before."" By day the house is as inviting as a Christmas card; by night it's Edgar Allan Poe. Lanterns and fires keep going out. The rocking chair creaks as it rocks uninhabited. And a wooden plaque testifies to the misery of past occupants. Furthermore, there are the impish Minnawickies whom Maynard had told him about: Austin finds that they're really a young boy and Ara--a 16-year-old girl who talks in Mainiac circumlocutions and seems to waver in age. This pair constructs a snow witch (a real witch was hung on a nearby hanging tree long ago)--and the witch's hat, its point sharp as a spear, chases a yelling Austin right into the house. Something doesn't want him, that's for sure. But after a visit from dead Maynard, a night of love spent with oddly mature Ara, and a final battle roiling with a Vietnam nightmare, Austin finds out what the ""something"" is--and he's introduced to a prolonged and richly-living dying. Then, however. . . Austin is again, as on page one, headed for the house. Was it all a dream? Well, maybe--but outside the house is ""the witch's hat, empty of everything save a small tight laughing, which it indulged itself in, over and over and over."" First-rate haunted-house creepiness, with just enough subtlety, down-East atmosphere, and irony from the canny Mr. Raucher (Summer of '42) to make it work for skeptics as well as undemanding occultists.
Pub Date: Sept. 22, 1980
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980
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