Every great ghost story starts with a great setting. Author Nancetta Liles must have been aware of this when constructing the elegant and eerie North Carolina mansion in her supernatural novel, Flint House. This smart, interesting, and well-detailed novel offers something for nearly every genre, respectfully honoring the telling of a classic ghost story without being hokey or simple.

The bulk of the story takes place in Flint House, which is located on a mountain in Asheville, North Carolina. At the beginning of the story, Charleston native Rhian Montrose is a social worker has just be reinserted into society after the stress of running a battered women’s shelter led her to developing apparent hallucinations. At the request of her former employer, Dr. Trembley, Rhian is offered a job taking care of a mentally ill patient, Gloria, at the request of her aunt and caretaker, Meredith Chastain. Since the age of 15, Gloria had been suffering from catatonic schizophrenia, an illness which leaves her in a catatonic state, unable to speak or move unless positioned. Rhian decides to take the job looking after Gloria and making her comfortable, which requires 24-hour care along with help from a team of nurses who take round the clock shifts in watching over her.

The mansion is huge and elegantly furnished with several full and part time workers keeping the place in order. Rhian goes to great lengths to stimulate Gloria’s mind with the hope that she will one day snap out of her catatonic state. After a few months, Meredith Chastain suffers a heart attack and dies shortly after. Rhian is asked by the family friend and attorney if she would be willing to take over as the owner of Flint House an Gloria’s primary caretaker. She agrees and the mansion becomes hers. She makes fast friends with the staff and nephew of the family’s lawyer, Anthony, as well as his partner, Jeff. Her best friend, Janet, from Charleston, comes for visits often as well, and Rhian begins to create a new life for herself.

Meanwhile, eerie occurrences begin to take place in the house. For one, Rhian begins to dream up visits of her dead mother who warns her of challenges ahead. She also encounters a little girl who steals change from the bowl in her room. More apparitions begin to appear to her, an Rhian begins to fear that she is relapsing into another schizophrenic episode. Even as these occurrences become more vivid, and her skepticism turns to belief, it isn’t until nearly three-quarters of the way into the story that she begins to actually believe what she is seeing. The ghosts that appear to her show her the house’s shameful and haunting past going as far back as pre-Civil war times when slaves worked on the property and were tortured, mistreated, and even killed, making some of them hungry for revenge against the Flint family.

The novel’s strongest point is its clarity and description, which is much needed for such a complex plot and back story with numerous characters, both living and dead. Rhian’s first tour of Flint House paints a vivid depiction of every room and location which is styled to be both modern and vintage. As the seasons transform, so does the property. The appearance and behavior of the ghost suggests that it was modeled after paranormal research rather than Hollywood cinema. There is a complexity to all of the spirits living in the house as shown by a complex back story. Each spirit is distinctly characterized and motivated, making it easy to keep track of all of them. The distinctive naming of the characters also aids in clarification.

The novel is on the longer side at 586 pages, and unlike other stories which end every chapter on a cliffhanger, the lengthy chapters stand on their own, largely in part to Rhian’s lingering skepticism. At the same time, the events that take place in the story, even the non-ghost related events such as the caring of Gloria, Rhian’s growing and continuing relationships with new and old friends, and the presence of her own haunting past keeps the reader reading on without the gimmick of a cliffhanger. Also non-stereotypical of the novel is the lack of isolation that takes place. Rhian is not confined to the house but encouraged to get away often, even taking a pre-Christmas trip to New Orleans with Janet and her boyfriend Stephen. Liles is also careful not to stereotype the mediums present in the novel. She makes sure to characterize them as rational, nonmaterial, and sensitive people who try to help Rhian. Despite their support and the support of her friends, Rhian needs all the help she can get.

In saying this, even a true skeptic can appreciate the story within Flint House. While lacking in suspense but not in horror, the history, romance, imagery, psychological, and social elements keep this complex novel from falling into the cliches of typical ghost stories. For a first time novelist, Liles really knows what she’s doing.

 

Flint House Information:

Paperback: $17.50

Hardcover: $38.95

Paperback: 586 pages

586 pages Publisher: BookSurge Publishing-April 16, 2007

BookSurge Publishing-April 16, 2007Language: English

English ISBN-10: 1419660187

1419660187 ISBN-13: 978-1419660184

978-1419660184To purchase Flint House, visit

http://www.amazon.com/Flint-House-Nancetta-Liles/dp/1419660187 or www.booksurge.com.

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