Novella Review: A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

© This Is Horror, 2016.


Both seventeen. Both afraid. But both saying yes.

It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever.

It’s got two stories.

It’s got a garden.

And the front door is open.

It’s a house at the bottom of a lake.

For the teens, there is only one rule: no questions. And yet, how could a place so spectacular come with no price tag? While the duo plays house beneath the waves, one reality remains:

Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home.

Via Goodreads


I’m a big Josh Malerman fan, with the exception of Unbury Carol which, if you read my DNF on it, was absolutely horrid. That said, when I came across A House at the Bottom of a Lake on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, I was a bit leery. Despite being a Malerman fan, I hadn’t heard of this title and… well, it was on KU. That alone struck me as a red flag. Nonetheless, I grabbed it and spent the night reading it. It wasn’t awful, but it’s definitely not Bird Box level great.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake is a coming of age story, one of those ones where the reader experiences the final moments of the main characters’ innocence. The house itself symbolizes the imaginative youthfulness and innocence of the more childlike mind, while the canoe represents the path to adulthood and the obstacles that must be overcome. Just like life experiences change us, the events leading up to the conclusion of the story change the canoe in ways that cannot be undone: paint chipping, dents, scratches, etc. I’d provide another example to support this theory, but that would, unfortunately, mean giving away a major spoiler to the story–so I won’t.

As far as the characters go, I found Amelia and James to be your stereotypical awkward teenagers. There is a bit of a disconnect between their age and their assumed behavior, leaning to the idea that these two kids are well-behaved and normally aren’t risk takers. Because of this, there are several moments where the story is dull.

There’s no doubt that this is a piece of work by Josh Malerman; it has his style all over it. That is, it’s meant to be suspenseful. However, the manner in which Malerman writes A House on the Bottom of a Lake struck me as a bit more jarring than edge-of-your-seat, ohmigawd what is happening!? This is probably because Malerman is a little too friendly with the parentheses in this book.

A House on the Bottom of a Lake is a great one-time read. It’s enjoyable and it has its moments, and the bond shared between Amelia and James feels realistic. It’s definitely something I’d recommend to a Malerman fan, though it isn’t worthy of a pedestal of its own.

Rating: 💀💀💀

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