Published by Ecco Books on September 23, 2014
Genres: adult, paranormal
Pages: 320 pages
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The New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy makes her brilliant adult debut with this mesmerizing story in the tradition ofThe Lovely Bones, Her Fearful Symmetry, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways.
Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.
But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.
The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.
Elegantly constructed and brilliantly paced, Rooms is an enticing and imaginative ghost story and a searing family drama that is as haunting as it is resonant.
I was sold on this book by two things: the words “Lauren Oliver” and the idea of ghost POVs.
Rooms by Lauren Oliver is a slow, secretive book that intertwines the lives of the dead and the living, and yet its tone is, in turns, contemplative, chilling, and in the end, nearly unbearably sad. If you’ve read the author’s previous young adult or middle grade novels, you probably know that a supernatural book by this author is not going to be your typical ghost story, and it’s a pleasure to find that her first adult novel is sure-footed and clear-eyed. Not all transitions from YA to adult (and vice versa) feel as natural as this, but the author handles adult themes and language and structure with ease. It also has surprising moments of lightness and humor–although Rooms is certainly about death and its aftermath, it is also about life and the importance of living it well.
Lauren’s visiting us today to chat a little bit about the inspiration behind her unusual story. I’m always happy to see she has a new book out, and I’m always happy when she’s our guest!
When I first heard you had written an adult novel, I thought, this makes so much sense. The depth of emotion and themes in your previous work are striking, and I’m curious how the experience of writing for adults differed from writing for teens or children.
Thank you so much! That’s so sweet. To be honest, I didn’t process the experience of writing for adults as particularly different from that of writing for teens and children–maybe because I’ve previously tackled themes of death, identity, connection, and family in my mother books. Every book is different, but the process and the experience of writing it often feels the same.
I understand this story came about after you went to an old estate in England that was allegedly haunted. Is there a photo you could share of the house or the grounds?
Sure! The house is this one: http://www.gunthorpehall.
Do you believe in ghosts yourself? You’ve written several books in which the characters are dealing with death, and both Liesl & Po and Rooms have ghosts that are distinctly different from the usual ones who are moaning in attics or rattling chains. There’s a pensive, sad quality to your ghosts that lingers long after readers have finished the books. Your view of the afterlife, as presented in your books, seems equal parts wistful, philosophical, and hopeful.
Once again, thank you. I don’t disbelieve in ghosts–let’s put it that way. I wasn’t raised with a traditional conception of the afterlife, so I think I enjoy speculating about what comes next. It’s incredibly compelling to believe that there’s something afterward–that we get to see people we love, right wrongs, even just exist.
Your writing is filled with such lovely descriptiveness that you strike me as a very visual person. Do you come from an arts background? Or what inspired such poetry in your prose?
Oh my goodness, enough with the compliments! I’m blushing! This font should be in a red color! I don’t think of myself as particularly visual, although it’s funny–recently I took a crack (very casually) at experimenting with some movie scripts, and I do “see” scenes. But I also “hear” language when I write. I pay attention not just to their rhythm but to their interplay, the way that words bounce off each other. I think that comes from having grown up in a house with two parents who love literature and have made it the basis of their lives.
Is there anything interesting that changed or was deleted in the process from draft to final page? It’s always fascinating to hear how characters or plot elements evolve.
Oh, a ton. Rooms had so many different permutations. Originally I was kind of writing two separate books: one narrated from the perspective of a house, one featuring the family that eventually evolved into the Walkers. It took me about six months to realize that they were, in fact, the same book and to figure out a way to unify them.
The ending of Rooms is one that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I finished. While the last few chapters are written with restraint, the knowledge of what transpired in that house is nearly unbearably sad. There’s a lovely sense of freedom of release as well, however. What do you hope that readers will take away from that ending?
I think one of my major themes is that of the complexity of our experiences: things aren’t good or bad, sad or joyful, but often a combination of all of the above. Endings are beginnings. Death is resurrection. Change can only occur out of the ashes of our old selves. So I guess I’d hope that readers get a sense of that.
We’re always curious what our favorite authors are reading, so what adult novels have you enjoyed recently?
Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour; A.A. Milne’s The Red House; and Bill Bryson’s 1927 come to mind as books I’ve enjoyed in the last month.
Care to share what you’re working on next? Now that you’ve tackled YA, middle grade, and adult fiction, perhaps we’ll see Lauren Oliver picture books and cookbooks will follow soon?
Ha–I do love to cook! No picture books in the works yet, but I never say never. I have a new teen book called Vanishing Girls coming out in spring 2015, and a new middle grade series launching in the fall of 2015. In addition, I’m working on an adult book. So lots of irons in the fire!
Thanks so much for joining us at The Midnight Garden, Lauren!
Thanks so much for having me.
Thanks to Ecco Books and the author, we have a beautiful finished copy of the hardcover to give away to one of our readers–and it’s signed, too! All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re interested in reading the book and/or responding to the interview above.
Open to US residents aged 18 and up, or 13 and up with parental permission. Good luck!
Photos are courtesy of the author and Gunthorpe Hall. Review and giveaway copies were provided by the the publisher.
Lauren Oliver is the author of the New York Times bestselling YA novels Before I Fall, Panic, and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem. Her books have been translated into thirty languages. She is also the author of two novels for middle-grade readers, The Spindlers and Liesl & Po, which was a 2012 E. B. White Read-Aloud Award nominee. Lauren’s first adult novel, Rooms, will be published in September 2014. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU’s MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the co-founder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit. You can visit her online at her website and Twitter.
Have you read Rooms yet, or are you looking forward to it? I don’t know about you, but all I have to do is hear the words “haunted house” and I’m intrigued! Couple that with Lauren Oliver’s thoughtful prose, however, and you have an adult debut that’s well worth your time.