What it’s about: Rooms is a different take on the classic haunted house story. The house in question is haunted by two women whose spirits have essentially merged with the house and can observe–even experience, in a sense–everything that happens inside. When Richard Walker, who owns the house, dies, his estranged, extremely dysfunctional family returns to clean up the place. There is a suicidal teen, his sex-addicted sister, and their alcoholic mom. Essentially, this is a family drama with ghosts–not scary, more sad.
Why I liked it: The overall theme of Rooms is the need to let go. Not letting go of their hurts and mistakes has caused all the current dysfunction of the living as well as trapped the ghosts in the house. About midway through the story, two new characters show up: another ghost, this time a young girl, and a manic pixie dream girl type. Their purpose is to demonstrate to the others how to let go. Oliver hits us over the head with this message quite a few times, as she does with the “rooms” metaphor–essentially, we are all spirits trapped in our own haunted houses, our bodies, which are full of rooms, and rooms can conceal secrets even from ourselves. But the writing is quite good, the house itself is a fully realized character, and the end is satisfying. Oliver may be best known for writing young adult fiction, but this is an adult novel, a meditation on what we regret doing and not doing in our lives.
You might like it if: You like ghost stories mixed with family drama, such as Her Fearful Symmetry or The Little Stranger.