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WGUC Reviews

Red House

Red House
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 fills in."

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.


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