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'Starter House' by Sonja Condit: A marriage and a haunted house

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Starter House by Sonja Condit

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"Starter House" by Sonja Condit is at heart a story about love and marriage. It's also a ghost story. It's also a study in how far people will go to protect family.

The protagonist is Lacey, a pregnant woman, and she and her husband are looking for a house. She insists that the house have triangles (think gables) and not merely rectangles. The house that she falls in love with is charming, with plenty of triangles. Unfortunately, when the realtor tries to talk her out of the house, she doesn't listen.

But when Lacey meets the next-door neighbor, who owns the house and is selling it, she is charmed. He is a violin teacher and he, like the house, is charming. The house has not only triangles but a beautiful wood staircase with a window through which the sunlight streams. She feels that it's "her" house right away. And the price is lower than would be expected.

But as soon as they move in, the brightness disappears, and Lacey feels a cold and evil presence. She also sees a ten-year-old boy named Drew, who wants to be her friend. But something is off about Drew, no matter how much Lacey tries to persuade herself that he is just a kid who lives in the neighborhood.

When Lacey realizes that her unborn baby is at risk from the malevolent being in the house, she decides to take matters into her own hands and investigate what happened in the house. It's difficult to investigate with Drew hanging around, but Lacey manages.

During this time, she relives how she began dating her husband. They come from greatly different backgrounds. Lacey's mother abruptly took her away from the house where they lived with her grandfather. Lacey has never really forgiven her mother for this, and for the fact that they were basically homeless for most of Lacey's childhood. Her husband, on the other hand, grew up in an atmosphere of wealth and privilege -- until his parents lost everything when it was discovered that they had committed fraud and stolen from their clients.

Lacey sticks by her husband, and it's obvious that they have a loving relationship -- until the ghost gets involved.

The author deftly creates well-written characters, including not only Lacey and her husband, but also Lacey's mother and Drew, who, it turns out, is a ghost. She uses flashbacks effectively and provides plenty of foreshadowing so that the reader can try to figure out the mystery of just who Drew is and why he won't allow anyone who lives in the house to have a baby.

This book would be a wonderful choice for a book club because of the plethora of themes that lend themselves to discussion: responsibility, family, marriage, love, mental illness, and children.

Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book provided by the publisher, William Morrow, for review purposes.

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