A New Spin on the House of Usher

I read this for the Goodreads Horror Aficionados October group read.

So all in all I wish I had liked this book more. I loved Robert McCammon’s other work I read, “Boy’s Life”. I thought this book would be more like that, instead it was not as engaging and I ultimately did not feel connected to one character in this book.

Usher’s Passing starts off with an Usher confronting Edgar Allen Poe and how that man came close to revealing the secret of the Ushers. I got to the ending and I am still at a lost everyone how Poe was anywhere near the reveal that was the ending in this book. Anyway, we fast forward to present day with Rix Usher being visited by his brother Boone telling him that their father is about to pass away from Usher’s Malady (the disease that strikes every Usher eventually and ultimately kills them) and he needs to return home to North Carolina.

The story segues back and forth between Rix and two other characters.

A secondary story is about a boy named New who is one of the mountain people who have lived near Usherland all of his life. After berry picking with his brother Nathan, we have New’s brother disappearing with New realizing the so-called Pumpkin Man and his panther Greediguts (why oh why this name) stealing him away.

The third story revolves around a woman named Raven (get it, do you get it?) Dunstan who is looking into the disappearances of children near Usherland and also what are is the Usher family going to do when the patriarch Walen Usher passes away.

I think if McCammmon had stuck with one of these three to tell the story maybe it would have worked better. I honestly didn’t like the character of Rix. I found him weak and judgmental of everyone else around him. He is so focused on not being anything like his brother Boone or his sister Kattrina, that he doesn’t realize he is just like them in any manner of ways. Rix is a aspiring horror author who wants to write a story about his family so he can finally make a name for himself. Going home and seeing his family and beloved family servants has him wondering constantly if being in charge of the Usher billions would really be a bad thing.

Some of the secondary characters felt a little more developed, such as Edwin fared better in this book. But others such as Mrs. Usher, Mr. Dunstan, and New’s mother were not very well utilized.

Weirdly enough I think the diary entries told from Walen Usher’s mother point of view and also Cynthia Usher (Rix’s great great grandmother) were better done. Sadly the book didn’t dwell too much on them.

I definitely like magical realism in books, but everything surrounded the mystery of New and his family and other families that lived on the mountain did not make a lot of sense to me. I think that I would have liked it better if McCammon had not tried to over explain everything. Just let a thing be because of something unknown. I think that is why I was ultimately so let down by this book when I got to the end. When you get to who was behind all of the strings going on I was like, really? Okay.

Raven never felt fully realized to me as a character. There is no rhyme or reason why she is trying to investigate children’s disappearances. Her total 180 on Rix in the end didn’t make any sense to me at all.

The writing at times was pretty gruesome. At one point I thought I could almost smell the decay of Walen Usher’s body based on all of the writing. I just wish things had flown together more. This was a long book and it felt like nothing really got going til I got to the 85 percent point in the book.

The setting of the house of Usher was done very well though. As was the so-called Lodge. I could see both of them in my head and everything took on a dark shadow due to it being autumn would most of the story took place.

I did feel letdown by the ending though. I think this was McCammon’s read of a happily ever after. I think the reveals were not that great, except for the explanation behind the Pumpkin Man.

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