Book Review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

roomsFamily secrets boil to the surface in this debut adult novel by YA and kid lit author Lauren Oliver.

When Richard Walker dies after a long illness, cared for only by hired health aides, his estranged family returns to their old home to divvy up the wealth and clear up the detritus of his life. Along with the living family members sorting through the accumulated memories and clutter are two ghosts, Alice and Sandra, who have their own histories in the house as well.

Richard’s living relations — ex-wife Caroline, troubled daughter Minna and her daughter Amy, and tortured teen Trenton — bring all their dysfunctional strife and trauma with them as they examine the rooms of the house and make sense of what’s left. And for Alice and Sandra, the reappearance of the family members brings up their own sets of memories of their long years spent haunting the house, as well as the living years that came before.

I read Rooms expecting a ghost story, but it’s really more of a sad story of all the various ways people can hurt each other and hurt themselves. No one is happy here; in different ways, the Walkers and the ghosts have suffered sorrows in which they’ve had a hand.

The concept of the ghosts is rather interesting. Not just shades who inhabit the building, Alice and Sandra have really become one with the house. They feel each draft and splinter; the various rooms are like their organs. While the house stands and remains whole, they remain tethered to this world and to their old lives.

Rooms isn’t dull, but it also never particularly grabbed me or created any sense of suspense. Over the course of the book, each of the characters confronts the secrets and hidden truths of their lives. There’s tragedy and deception, pain and loss. What these people, alive and dead, have experienced is worthy of pity and compassion, but somehow a connection is missing. Perhaps because the book is so short, I didn’t feel that I got to know any one person well enough to truly care, so I had no investment in the outcome.

Rooms is well-written and flows quickly from one vignette to another. It’s sad rather than spooky, and lacks the oomph I would have expected in a story about ghosts and their connection to the living. Ultimately, Rooms really wasn’t my cup of tea. I prefer my Halloween reads on the edgier side.


The details:

Title: Rooms
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Ecco
Publication date: September 23, 2014
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Adult fiction
Source: Library

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

  1. I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of spooky, so I’m happy to hear Rooms isn’t very spooky. I think it would be strange if she went completely off her usual style into true scariness.

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