It begins with a call one snowy February night. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation: helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet something in Sylvie senses that this call is different from the others, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep, only to wake to the sound of gunfire.
As the story weaves back and forth through the years leading up to that night and the months following, the ever-inquisitive Sylvie searches for answers and uncovers secrets that have haunted her family for years.
Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King's works and the quirky tenderness of John Irving's novels, Help for the Haunted is told in the captivating voice of a young heroine who is determined to discover the truth about what happened on that winter night.
©2013 John Searles (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers
Say something about yourself!
This is a YA read, and that may be a factor in how much you like or dislike this book. I was unaware of that when I purchased this book, after the suggestion from a reader friend. I haven't read Searles before but have seen him on the Today show and know he has a big following. Generally, I don't read YA books and the fact that I continued to the end after I realized the intended audience speaks to Searles' writing talent. I wouldn't steer readers away from this choice, but I would advise them to lower their expectations.
The story has a spooky and eerie quality from the beginning. The parents were wonderfully dysfunctional; a dubious pair of spiritualist whose work is only lightly talked about with the 2 daughters, both urged to keep the family business private. Sylvie's youth has her still obedient and dependent on her parents, while her older sister Rosie is rebellious and questioning of the shady events occurring at all hours in their home. The house itself is surrounded with *no trespassing* warnings, contains a mysterious basement room, and both the artifacts from the parents *jobs* exorcising demons from the haunted, and the religious symbols of the mother's juxtaposed devotion to Christianity. The story goes back and forth between time from the night Sylvie's parents were brutally murdered to the events that led up to the crime. No ghosts, no demons, just a very strange family with a very strange business.
The story began to unravel as it spread, characters popped into the plot without clearing up any of the mystery, and even Sylvie -- whom the reader is counting on to keep us heading toward the light -- starts to become unreliable (beyond the *unreliable narrator* tactic). It is never clear if Searles intended Sylvie's memory of the events to be tinged with the recollections of a young teen, or whether Sylvie was a manipulative chip off the ol' parental block. What began as a promising haunted tale, with rag dolls fished out of wells and rocking chairs facing the corner, becomes a cloudy plot that leaves you more confused than spooked. I only hung in till the ending because I was so convinced from a great start that Searles would pull-up and give us an unexpected WOW ending -- but he didn't, and this one bombed for me.
Graphic Designer. Culinary Enthusiast. Mostly User Friendly.
This was a great Halloween read/listen. The blend of Gothic ghost story, contemporary coming-of-age story, and twisty-turn mystery made for a unique mix. I also thought the narration by Emma Galvin was spot on.
What started out as an intriguing mystery soon became a diseased plot. The author led you down what seemed to be connected paths yet rapidly dismantled them using sophomoric ploys and common writing tricks. Characters were introduced to....well, waste time I suppose because many had no relevance to the story. I'm not sure what kept me listening; I suppose there was hope at every corner that this would wrap up nicely into good mystery. But nope, it never happened. Very disappointing. I'll stick to Steinbeck for now....
Nasaly, Boring, Flat
I have always loved to read. Discovering audible has been great for a multitasker! Sorry for any misspells on reviews!
An excellent mystery that all though very slow moving draws you in and keeps going till the end. If I were to compare it to another book it would be Lovely Bones although the story is very different , the feel of it is very similar. It is the story of a 14 year old girl whos demon/ghost hunting parents are murdered. Follow as she struggles to come to terms with and piece together what happened on the night of their murder and deals with what she learns about her family in the process. Although not high action suspense I did not want to stop listening until I finished the book. I did not figure out the ending until it was revealed. The narrator did perfect portraying a 14 year old girl.
I have nearly 400K miles on my van and I listen to a LOT of audiobook! I'm a musician and I listen as I travel from concert to concert.
Original, Gripping, Unique
I loved the main character, Sylvie, and her struggles. I was rooting for her. I really enjoy books about adolescent characters ...not YA books...but adult novels that feature younger characters and how they see the world. This book had a lot of twists and turns and Sylvie was just a wonderful character. I liked the book so much I bought it for my daughter for Christmas.
She brought nuance to the characters and emotion to the story. I enjoyed her narration.
There were moments that I sat in the car just to listen, but no, I don't think I wanted to listen all in one sitting.
I'll probably be looking for more John Searles novels. This was really a treat because I'd never read him before and I truly think this book stands out among horror/suspense novels for its originality.
Again no. I was glad to listen the first time. It is a depressing story. This is a story about dysfunctional people crashing through life. The parents were incredibly selfish to put their daughter through such a life to pursue their path.
The trip to the pond at night.
When I like something I'll let you know. If I don't, I'll let you know that too!
Truths are not as they appear - even to those closest to us.
John Searles crafted an entertaining novel - presented as a paranormal mystery with pro-religious overtones. But things are not always as they first appear. Searles uses Help for the Haunted to expose the fact that we not only keep secrets from those we love and those we don't, but we often keep them from ourselves. At the very end, you have to decide for yourself what is fact and what is not.
Sylvie, the smart, young teenage daughter of Sylvester and Rose, is dragged from bed in the middle of a snowy night by her parents to meet their older daughter, also named Rose. Sylvie's parents are murdered at the church and Sylvie is assaulted. Sylvie then tells us the stories of her family, their work, and travels. These stories are woven in between Sylvie's stories as a ward of her older sister and their treatment from those in the community.
Sylvie learns the prime murder suspect has a rock solid alibi for the time the murders were committed. Sylvie searches for the truth about the deaths of her parents and learns about their lives along the way. She also learns secrets about them, her sister and plenty of others before finding her parent's murderer. The story moves along quite steadily and had me finding reasons to keep listening past the end of several chapters. While not all the questions are answered, there is enough of a conclusion to make reading Help for the Haunted satisfying.
Some reviewers here have complained about the narrator. I completely disagree with their unfavorable comments about Emma Galvin, the narrator of Help for the Haunted. I enjoy listening to her performance of this book and others. She is very appropriate for narrating a story from the young female perspective, especially someone with a world as upset as Sylvie's.
The description sounded much more exciting than the book was. The title led you to believe that it would involve more hauntings, but it didn't. I do have to say that I didn't see the ending coming but was still disappointed.
Unpredictable, interesting, good
I wish the pacing was better. There were too many awkward pauses. Her voice is great, I had no issue with that (though it was strange listening to it right after the Divergent series) but the narrator would read a sentence like she was ending it, then come to the next word or phrase and keep going. It needed rehearsing or more read-throughs.
I don't usually like books in which a precocious pre-teen/teen is the main character, but in this book it works, especially with the excellent reading by Emma Galvin. I grew more squeamish about the parents and their weird life but kept reading because the mystery was compelling. Did not like the ending...culprit came completely out of left field which I think is cheating for a mystery writer. Also, Mr. Searles has a wonderful writing style but seems to have problems with past participles of some verbs and it's kind of jarring..."she sunk", "we snuck" (really?!), "he spit".
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