When I was about sixteen / seventeen it was a different time, it was a time without gadgets and phones, it was a time when you went exploring with friends or by yourself, it was a simpler time, a time I sometimes long for for my children, a time when you didn’t have to conform or grow up too soon or become what the world tells you to be.
We’d (my friends and I) had found an old ice pit in the forest. Where I grew up we had an underground cave network called Chislehurst Caves – it was used in the war for people to seek refuge in and also later it became a music venue deep underground featuring artists such as David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Status Quo – to name a few.
But anyway I digress – we’d found this hole in the ground and it was our hole, it was pitch black and it was cold. We used to go there every weekend, we’d bring candles and matches, cigarettes and BB Guns, ropes and of course lunch – we’d explored that cave and it became our little clubhouse.
We’d drop down into the hole in the ground, walk the spiral hallway with torches or burning candles, the hallway led to a thirty foot drop into a huge dome like structure which had a number of open doorways in its outer wall, we’d attached ropes and climbed down into the pit, it was scary, it was freeing, it was what childhood was all about – until it wasn’t – we came back one time to find that the land had shifted and our hole in the ground had been subsumed by the forest, taken back under and never to be seen again.
But it was childhood, it was nostalgia it was freeing and it was ours – until it wasn’t and it just lived on in our minds, in our dreams and imaginations, but it was real for a time.
That’s what Josh Malerman has been able to expertly put across with ‘A House At The Bottom Of A Lake’ he’s been able to craft a moment in time, of adolescence of being so consumed with a discovery that it takes over the life of those that discover it. This book is lightening in a jar – and for me was a huge trip down memory lane, and although this was a house at the bottom of the lake, I couldn’t help but visualize my ice pit!
The character work in this book is sublime, Malerman has perfectly rendered that awkwardness of his characters and that of seventeen year old’s who don’t necessarily fit in with the crowd. The anxious first date and the thought process was deftly done – all of the work around these two characters was a trip down memory lane and what it meant to be young, infatuated and desperately searching for belonging.
It’s a simple story but the best ones are am I right? Two characters, a lake, a house and a desire to explore their new found home – where they feel they belong.
Two awkward seventeen year old’s go on a first date to a lake, they find a house at the bottom of a lake (under the water) and spend their summer exploring it and exploring each other (not as sexual as I made that sound) it’s about friendship and keeping secrets, it’s a story about discovery and making your memories count, of shaping that ball of clay into something you’ll remember forever, moulding your adolescence to your needs, wants and desires – but not holding it too tightly for fear of losing it!
Malerman’s prose is this book is on fire, its just so darn poetic and there is a flow to it that makes you just devour the words as if you’ve not eaten in months – I finished this book within a day. Malerman’s prose is striking and unsettling and in places deeply eerie and unnerving – but with each exploration of the house we find ourselves like our main protagonists wanting to lose ourselves in the deep and stay at the house at the bottom of the lake.
Mesmeric prose and a uniquely told story that proves that simplicity is sometimes greatly overlooked, but there is beauty in a simple story told so well!
At its essence this book is a love story, a story of adolescence and discovery a story of hope and belonging. A House At The Bottom Of A Lake is a bewitching tale that had me captivated form the outset – an elegant and haunting tale which will for me, live long in the memory!
https://www.chislehurst-caves.co.uk – check out the caves here and you’ll see what I mean!
A House At The Bottom Of A Lake is available here.
Josh Malerman is an American author of novels and short stories. Before publishing his debut novel Bird Box with ECCO/HarperCollins, he wrote fourteen novels, never having shopped one of them.
Being the singer/songwriter of the Detroit rock band The High Strung, Malerman toured the country for six years, as the band played an average of 250 shows a year, and Malerman wrote many of the rough drafts for these novels in the passenger seat between cities on tour. He says this about those days: “I never saw the books with dollar signs in my eyes. It was no hobby, that’s for sure, it was the real thing and always has been, but I was happy, then, simply writing, and while I blindly assumed they’d be published one day, I had no idea how something like that occurred.”
As the pile of rough drafts grew, so did the questions as to what he was planning on doing with them. Malerman often says that he lived long in a “glorious delusion” in which he took part in phantom interviews, pretended to have an agent, debated with fictitious editors, and placed invisible hardcover books upon his shelves.
It wasn’t until a friend from high school, Dave Simmer, contacted him that those delusions became reality. Simmer, having worked with authors and properties in Hollywood, asked Malerman’s permission to send one of his books to some people he knew in the book business. Malerman heartily agreed and the pair sent out Goblin, a collection of novellas that all take place in the titular city of Goblin. From there, a team was assembled and Malerman suddenly found himself speaking with a real agent and debating with actual editors. He says this of the part Simmer played in his career: “There were two things at play at that point in time; one, Dave was a ghostly benefactor, golden hearted and smart, descending from the sky to help me. And two, what may sound like some luck couldn’t have become fortunate if I wasn’t armed with a dozen novels to talk shop with.”
A limited edition of Goblin is set for publication on Halloween of 2017, through Earthling Publications.
Bird Box was released in 2014 and many short stories and novellas have followed.
Black Mad Wheel (ECCO/HarperCollins) is slated for May of 2017 and Malerman now has the task of juggling between the twenty-seven already written novels and whatever new ideas come going forward.
Cemetery Dance is set to publish a hardcover limited edition of On This, the Day of the Pig in late 2017.
Del Rey (Penguin/Random House) has purchased the rights to Unbury Carol, a fantastic horror-western to be published in April of 2018.
The High Strung are working on a new album and Malerman is working on a new book, freehand this time, in an attempt to get back to how he used to write rough drafts.
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