Being a Mostly Accuruate Account of New England's
by Sarah Messer
Review by: Craig R. Stafford
"Old houses that have sheltered a family for 300 years are forever invisibly
inhabited by jealous ghosts, and it is absolutely essential for any dweller therein
to get them on his side." -Richard Warren Hatch, 1966.
Fear not, loyal readers. This is not The Amityville Horror 2. Red House is an
intertwining true story of the Hatches (whose family had lived in the house for
over 325 years) and the Messers (who purchased it in 1965). Many of the chapters
have Sarah reflecting on her years growing up in that house with her family and
siblings, both happy and tragic, like the fire that nearly claimed all their lives-and
the impact they had on their community living there.
Her father had a radiology office, where he performed mammograms with his X-ray
machine. Messer writes; "The designation of 'X' in 'X-ray'
stands for 'Unknown,' because, in the beginning Wilhelm Roentgen,
the scientist who discovered them, was uncertain of their nature. The X-ray is
an easy metaphor for history-where history leaves gaps, the imagination
That is the strength, and the brilliance, of the author here. What is the 325
year history of Red House? What of the people who inhabited it? What was life
like for them? Messer explores these gaps in history and, with a little imagination,
fills in the details-starting in the 1600s and working up to the present,
which includes her family's history. My favorite is why she feels the house
was painted red in the first place. (I never would have guessed!)
Messer has such a gentle manner of description, expression and, most importantly,
reflection, as she speaks of the life and times of the Hatches. The story unfolds
at a determined, rhythmic pace, and you will soon find yourself finished with
the book, and perfectly content, as if you had drifted gently down river in a
canoe on a gorgeous spring day.
Simply put, Red House is a book treasure waiting for you to discover it. Perfect
to read at any time during the year and perfect for book groups.