Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Genre/Audience: Horror, adult
Publication: Anchor, 2005
Last night I finished up Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, who is known for his offbeat and sometimes disturbing stories. This book is certainly both of those things. I think Palahniuk is completely brilliant and I very much admire him; I’m not completely sure how I feel about this one though.
Haunted is quite complex, so I’ll do my best to describe it. The book is made up of 23 short stories inside of one larger story. The larger story is this: a group of people responded to an ad for a “writer’s retreat” in which they would abandon their lives for three months and create their masterpiece. None of the characters knew what to expect, they just boarded a bus and wound up at an old abandoned theater, at this retreat, run by an elderly man named Mr. Whittier.
Each chapter of this story is followed by a free verse poem about one of the people, then some sort of story about their life that they are telling the rest of the group. All of these stories are disturbing and unusual, brilliant and shocking.
As for the main story… as time goes on, the people are increasingly growing more disturbed and insane. Some of them begin dying, and cutting off their own fingers and toes. They ruin the food and break the heater, all in hopes of being discovered by the outside world, and then becoming famous by having movies and shows created about their experience. They appear to be locked up and victimized, but we soon discover they are really prisoners of themselves.
The premise of this story is absolutely fascinating. The book is shocking, grotesque, and extremely unique. It is provocative, bizarre and unusual, as Palahniuk almost always is. With that said, I think the format of the book was interesting and the writing was brilliant. Palahniuk did not let me down there. However, something about this book just didn’t completely click with me. It wasn’t as gripping as some of his others, and that may be a result of the character’s short stories intersplicing so often into the main story. While the short stories were fascinating (I particularly enjoyed “The Nightmare Box”), it disrupted the flow of the main story. This book is intense and disturbing, but an interesting read. If you have not read Palahniuk before, I wouldn’t recommend this being your first. I adore his novel Invisible Monsters, and would highly recommend checking that one out if you are interested in his work. I must admit, I was a little bit disappointed with this one, though I did enjoy it for the most part.
All in all, I’d say be prepared for a disturbing read! It is not recommended for the faint of heart. If you are already a fan of Palahniuk, then I’d say: read it. If you have not read any of his books before though, I would not recommend starting with this one. Instead, try Invisible Monsters.
My Rating: 3.5/5
Currently Reading: Moments With Baxter by Melissa Joseph. This is a book of photographs and short essay stories about a therapy dog named Baxter who has been specially trained to comfort dying people in hospice. Baxter has recently passed away, but he touched so many lives in his time here.