Pros: Excellent haunted house tale
Cons: The ceremony was a tad weird
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Ike Hamill’s Mumma’s House introduces us to a most unusual haunted house. This isn’t the stereotypical empty, unlived-in building. Instead, it belongs to a longstanding family and is ‘ruled over’ by a ‘Mumma’ selected in a terrifying ceremony. June was supposed to become the new Mumma when she got old enough, but she was too scared. She’s gradually gotten to the point where she only lives in a couple of rooms of the large house together with her son, Gus. Each year at least one person from each family branch must come participate in another ceremony or they lose claim on the house. The idea is that whichever branch is left standing gets the huge house. However, not everyone is so sure they want it. June is contemplating moving out of the house and giving up all claim on it. One of her relatives has a new idea, however, involving finding a codicil to the will that supposedly another family member is hiding that would change everything. In the meantime, the members of the large family have to survive long enough to bring their various machinations to fruition.
I love Mumma’s House. It’s one of the very few haunted house stories I’ve ever read in which there seems to be genuine interest and plot to the haunted house, rather than just turning it into a random monster. It has a personality that makes it believable that it wouldn’t kill off the characters randomly. After all, the family and the house belong to each other.
The only times I have been targeted, I was the most interesting thing [the house] could play with.
The inner geography of the house changes constantly. Sometimes the house seems to try to absorb a person, pulling them in with a blanket or the like. June can tell who is in the house by concentrating, and her son, Gus, is learning to do some of the same. I love the characters; none of them are squeaky-clean and some of them have been doing some dark things in their quest to get hold of the inheritance.
If you love horror, and have any interest in haunted houses, but want there to be story that draws a remarkably ‘lifelike’ haunted house, then Mumma’s House is a great read. My take on Hamill’s writing goes up and down depending on the book, but I think this is one of his best.