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Help for the Haunted

de John Searles, John Searles (Autor)

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6556126,353 (3.6)56
Struggling with the loss of her parents, who helped haunted souls find peace, Sylvie Mason pursues the mystery, moving closer to the truth of what happened that night as she comes to terms with her family's past.
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Although the primary story occurs in 1989, a coming-of-age story of the youngest daughter in a two child family is told through flashbacks. The primary mystery surrounds the death of the protagonist's (Sylvie) parents, lecturers and investigators into the paranormal. Their Maryland home, a dilapidated Tudor is a beacon for a stream of visitors seeking help for a number of paranormal activities. The home's basement houses a number of supernatural artifacts, including a toddler-size rag doll named Penny, initially carried by Sylvie's mother and bone of contention with Sylvie's older sister, Rose, because the family has received negative attention regarding the sanity of their mother.

An itinerant, homeless man, seeking assistance from Sylvie's parents, is accused of her parents' murders. After their death, Rose who recently reached the age of majority becomes her sister's guardian, however, she does not take her responsibility too seriously. The flashbacks set the stage for the reader to question give the reader a better understanding of this unusual family and are a wealth of "red herrings" in understanding what happened to Sylvie and Rose's parents.

Although the flashbacks were necessary for character development, I found I was frequently slogging through the pages. I wish that there was a bit more action in this part of the book as I found in the unforeseen climax and the mystery solved. A good read, but not a great read IMHO. ( )
  John_Warner | Dec 1, 2020 |
The Masons are an unusual family, a fact that their community realizes once newspaper articles and then a book about them appear. Sylvester and Rose Mason are paranormal investigators and faith healers, but as this story takes place in the late 80's- early 90's, that's a bizarre occupation, and making things worse, they really believe in possession and spirits and have filled their basement with evil objects removed from clients.
Their teenage daughter, also named Rose, is old enough to be enraged that her parents are so weird and cause the family to be the target of pranks and ridicule. But this story is told by the youngest of the family, Sylvie, who gets the brunt of the mess because she's timid and her sister's horrible behavior obligates Sylvie to always be accommodating even when it's unfair.
From the very beginning the reader knows that Sylvie's parents have been murdered and that Sylvie witnessed some of what happened, but since the Masons took on the burden of several sick strangers, mostly because Sylvester was interested in the fame "curing" these people brought, there were several different scenarios that might have happened in that dark church. ( )
  mstrust | Oct 3, 2020 |
This was one of those dark and creepy and mysterious books that I couldn't put down. Searles experiments with the way he lets the story unfold, moving back and forth in time and layering a series of questions that need to be answered. He brings it all together by the end, although deliberately doesn't answer all of the questions. The main whodunnit mystery is answered and this is the one thing I didn't feel satisfied about. I won't give away the details. I'm just not sure it was the right strategy on how to conclude that part of the story. But I loved this book and his writing overall. ( )
  jjpseattle | Aug 2, 2020 |
Author John Searles wrote a brilliant novel, in Help for the Haunted. There is a great in-depth characterization of the main characters, so much so that a reader feels they know these people, and well. The vivid imagery of this novel had me hooked from the very first chapter, and the narrator's rendition is absolutely flawless, here. (I switched between the audiobook and ebook). In fact, this is one of those rare books that enfolds and encompasses you completely.
The parents in the novel are loosely based on Lorraine and Ed Warren, who were ghost hunters of a kind in the 60's and the 70's. Even a few ideas, like the spooky raggedy Ann doll, were borrowed from the movie, The Conjuring. Because I've seen this movie, the parts of the book that dealt with the doll moving around of its own accord had me quite freaked out, at one point.....but gleefully so. And having been a HUGE fan of Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Saul since I was 14, that's a pretty big deal. But while gothic elements of the storyline add a spooky tone throughout, this is where the ghost story line ends.
The suspense entwined in this novel is crated by the complex construction of the author's narrative, the paranormal, religious, and demonic beliefs blended so realistically in this story that it kept you on edge all the way to the unbelievable, twisted ending. The story had a very intricate, complicated plot that you didn't know one minute to the next, what was real or not. Sylvie's memories are interspersed with present day happenings, but Sylvie's memories are not chronological and are often muddled. So the reader is encouraged to try to piece together the narrative timeline and work out seemingly unconnected occurrences. And Sylvie, as much as she wants to better understand her parents and the events leading up to their death, is also afraid to learn the truth and shatter her illusions about her family. So she will start and then stop parts of her investigation, leaving the reader wanting more information or clarification.
We feel very tenderly for Sylvie--her childhood was tough, she was under a lot of pressure to be the opposite of her sister, her mother's time and effort were often taken away from her by all of the "haunted" people in the Masons' lives coming for help. So Her very investigation seems to Sylvie like a betrayal of her parents, even if it's in pursuit of their murderer. Though sometimes unrealistically precocious, Sylvie is likeable, vulnerable, and wise beyond her years. (And the character Abigail.....? Holy crap, that kid.......!!).

A word on Searles' prose style. As I said above, I was completely lost in this book. Searles has the rare gift of utterly disappearing from his text, and this is a wonderful thing. Some authors are intrusive, but Searles deftly constructs a narrative that unfolds seemingly by itself, without authorial guidance. Instead of employing hackneyed metaphors and similes, Searles uses such moments to insert anecdotes about Sylvie's life. In this way Searles beautifully and unobtrusively builds up the characterization of his players and provides their backgrounds. I felt like I knew these people, And i had become so wrapped up in their lives that I wanted - no, NEEDED to help.........and then The ending was so poignant that I wept.

At the heart of fantastical (the murders, the hauntings) is a troubled family, which can sometimes be the most frightening thing of all. How well do we know our mothers, fathers, or sisters? Would we still love them if we truly knew them? These are the questions Searles poses with subtlety. Help For the Haunted is a beautiful , transporting novel, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
5 huge stars for this awesome author. ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
Good, rambling in parts, but interesting. ( )
  AnnaHernandez | Oct 17, 2019 |
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Struggling with the loss of her parents, who helped haunted souls find peace, Sylvie Mason pursues the mystery, moving closer to the truth of what happened that night as she comes to terms with her family's past.

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