Houdini Heart is the harrowing tale of an anonymous narrator, driven by a horrendous ordeal to flee her glamorous life in Malibu for a small town in Vermont where she briefly stayed with her mother as a child. There, she finds shelter in the River House, a once magnificent hotel that has been turned into a series of dilapidated apartments and shops. Within the walls of the River House the narrator sets out to complete a task, her final novel, one to best her others, but soon finds there are forces at work inside the hotel (or, perhaps trapped inside her own tormented mind) that have other plans for her…
Ki Longfellow’s suspenseful, dark, and eerie novel is a compellingly written examination of the intense psychological unraveling of a lone, unnamed protagonist. Woven together as a series of flashbacks, internal monologues, and excerpts from the central character’s best-known book, “The Windigo’s Daughter*”, Houdini Heart slowly and meticulously reveals the narrator’s troubled past, and the terrifying events leading up to her arrival at the River House. With extraordinary subtlety and skill, Longfellow slowly spins an inauspicious web, pulling readers in until they’re no longer sure of what is real or imagined. Is the River House truly haunted, or is our nameless heroine (anti-heroine?) losing what little remains of her sanity after what happened back in California? Free from vampires, werewolves, zombies and other traditional staples of the genre, Houdini Heart is a work of literary horror that delves deep into the psyche and leaves readers questioning their own lucidity. This book will stay with readers long after uttering its final haunting words.
I cannot adequately express how much this book affected me. I’ll admit, I wasn’t immediately drawn in, but by the time I realized what was happening (though I couldn’t really be sure what was happening), I was so engrossed I couldn’t put it down. Once I finally (regretfully) did, I could not stop thinking about it. I felt the need to discuss with others what had happened, and if what I thought transpired had really occurred at all. I wanted to not only keep reading far past the book’s conclusion, I also wanted to dive into “The Windigo’s Daughter”, the protagonist’s award-winning-novel-turned-movie that Longfellow expertly ties into the storyline. My only true criticism is that at present, the book is only available as a print-on-demand or electronic download. That, and I still have no clue what really happened in the River House, though that is equally a criticism and utmost praise for Houdini Heart. I will definitely be reading other works by Ki Longfellow.
*Windigo: The wendigo (also known as windigo, weendigo, windago, waindigo, windiga, witiko, wihtikow, and numerous other variants) is a creature appearing in the legends of the Algonquian people. It is thought of variously as a malevolent cannibalistic spirit that could possess humans or a monster that humans could physically transform into. Those who indulged in cannibalism were at particular risk, and the legend appears to have reinforced this practice as a taboo. (Thanks, Wikipedia).