Author Mae Clair posted a 5-star review:
This short read is set mostly in the 1960s and serves as an introduction to the author’s upcoming Madeira series. Ruth Hazelton and her husband, Lee, have just moved into a beautiful old Victorian home. Lee has accepted a job as Madeira’s new police chief and the world is looking up for them.
Ruth is a wonderful character. Social and outgoing, someone who quickly establishes herself as a friendly face in her neighborhood and community. I particularly liked her friendship with her neighbor Sam. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon, opinionated, but highly likeable at the same time. He also believes in curses. It’s through Sam that Ruth learns several of her new home’s former residents died unexpectedly. The history of the house is a mystery that serves to open the door for Hall’s series.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the way the author wove events from the 1960s into the story. Some are delivered via journal entries from Ruth, others through narrative and dialogue. As someone who has long been fascinated by that time period, those references were highlights for me.
Ruth reflects on her life, particularly when she and her husband Lee first moved into the house. It begins as she nears the end of her life. She reflects Ruth reflects on her life, particularly when she and her husband Lee first moved into the house
Most of the scenes occur in the late 1960s/early 1970s, so I used actual events in the story. I also drew on a few of my memories from that time.
One of the biggest stories of the late 1960s was the Apollo space program. If anyone visited C. S. Boyack’s site on Tuesday, I talked about Ruth’s neighbor, Sam. He’s friendly, but a bit crusty and set in his ways. He believes in curses and doesn’t think America should be involved in going to the moon.
Lee wasn’t as comfortable in crowds as Ruth, content to stay in the background. He spent most of the evening talking with several of his officers. Everyone was in high spirits, not only because of the Christmas season, but because NASA had launched Apollo 8 that morning—the first manned spacecraft on a planned mission to orbit the moon. Needless to say, it was the topic of several conversations.
“Looks like we’re going to beat the Russians, after all.” Juan Garcia was one of Lee’s officers.
“When President Kennedy made the statement about putting men on the moon before the end of the decade, I didn’t believe it. Now it’s about to happen,” Lee said.
Sam was quick to interject. Ruth had known he was very opinionated about certain subjects. Tonight, she learned the space program was one of them.
“We’re not there yet,” he said. “We shouldn’t be messing around in the heavens. The moon is God’s business, not man’s. It’ll probably usher in some cataclysmic event.”
Ruth usually remained quiet and let him ramble, but she couldn’t resist speaking up this time. “Come on, Sam. Surely you don’t believe that.”
“I most certainly do! It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to look up and see the moon has turned into blood. Mark my word. Something bad will happen. Just wait and see.”
A few days later…
History had already been made earlier in the day with the first lunar orbit. Now, everyone watched in awe as the ship rounded the moon and the Earth came into view. Much like a waxing gibbous moon in shape, the blue and white color of the planet stood out among the blackness of space.
“Wow!” Tim’s enthusiasm was evident.
“What I wouldn’t give to be in the astronaut’s place right now,” Glenn said.
Ruth glanced toward Sam, who opened his mouth to speak, but he was hushed by a poke in the ribs from Millie.
Everyone grew silent as Astronaut William Anders spoke. “We’re now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send to you.”
Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman took turns reading from the first chapter of Genesis.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness…
“And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.”
Borman ended by saying, “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.”
At his words, even Sam bowed his head in prayer.
Dream home or damned home?
Ruth Hazelton is over the moon when her husband Lee agrees the nineteenth-century Victorian in Madeira, New Mexico, is the perfect home for them. While he starts his new job as police chief, she sets about unpacking and decorating.
But it’s not long before Ruth needs more. She becomes a fixture in the community, making time for everyone, volunteering, hosting events—she’s every bit the social butterfly her husband is not. Through her friendships, she learns several former residents of her home met with untimely deaths. If she were superstitious, she might fear a curse, but such nonsense doesn’t faze her.
Until the unthinkable happens.
Now, as the end of Ruth’s life draws near, she must find a way to convey her message and stop the cycle to prevent anyone else from suffering in the house of sorrow.
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