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Title & Author: A Vagrant At The House of Love, John Horan

Genre & Publication Date: Paranormal/Fantasy, January 21, 2015

Book Description: “A ghost wanders a city, watching people’s lives as the world goes on without him, sifting through his own past in an attempt to understand why he hasn’t gone to heaven or hell. He becomes obsessed with a beautiful but damaged girl, Michelle, and fearing she is destined for the same fate as him, resolves to try and save her. A Vagrant at the House of Love is a novel about love, obsession, memory, dreams, alienation, addiction and madness, a rage against the heavens shot through with pitch black humour.”

First Line: Dying isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.

My Take: The book was provided to me by the author for review.

This book breaks a lot of rules when it comes to structure and plot. There’s a lot of internal dialogue, interludes of exposition, and it moved from scene to scene without a clear sense of what direction it was going…But you know what? It worked, people. It worked because even when I didn’t know where things were headed, I was captivated by what it said.

Told from the perspective of Racine, the story charts his journey in purgatory as he grapples with the question, “Why am I still here?”. Navigating between truths and delusions, he watches the living and keeps company with other souls stuck on the same becalmed sea of existence. Each of them interprets their presence there differently: anger, despair, resentment, even piety. They reminded me of the stages of grief. Perhaps that’s what they were, only the death they grieved was their own.

The read enthralls. There’s a brutal honesty to Racine’s observations, even when he has trouble being honest with himself. Plagued by regret and longing, there’s an agony to him that’s both tragic and compelling. He yearns for connection and to be rescued from that place of nothing. There’s a parallel here with addiction. That, too, is a place of nothing, a place where whole stretches of time are lost to static, devoid of connection and engagement with the world, a kind of living death, like the one Racine exists in.

As he reflects on his life (and afterlife), there came a poignant moment when he wished he could’ve found the right way of thinking or “the book of codes.” Brother, I hear you. Sometimes I think not knowing is the source of our salvation and other times I wonder if it leads us to self-destruction. Maybe a little of both. Either way, it was a fascinating thread to follow in a magnificent story.

The Magical: Racine’s “voice” was awesome. I feel like I know the guy personally. How often I wanted to help him, or point out that he should not just direct his love outward, but inward as well. Reading him reminded me of a quote by Charles Bukowski: “We’re all going to die, all of us. What a circus! That alone should make us love each other, but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities; we are eaten up by nothing.”

The Mundane: A good copy editor could get rid of typos I spotted in the book. But don’t worry about those, everyone. The content is gold.

Summary of Thoughts: Currently the book is $2.99 for the Kindle and I absolutely recommend it. Fair warning: There’s vulgarity in the text, but don’t let that deter you. Here is an unflinching examination of the soul. As we live day by day, how often we contort the beauty of life through a lens of pain. Make no mistake, there is pain in living, but that’s only half the story. Without it I wonder if we’d have the same appreciation for our passions, our accomplishments, even our relationships with each other. We don’t know the codes but therein lies the “mystery”, that of the divine and of ourselves. This book will have me pondering this idea for a long time coming.


Many thanks to author John Horan for providing a copy of the book to review!

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