A House at the Bottom of a Lake
A House at the Bottom of a Lake
by Josh Malerman
January 19, 2021
by Random House Publishing – Ballantine Books – Del Rey
Rating: 3 Stars ⭐⭐⭐
Both seventeen. Both afraid. But both saying yes.
It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever.
It’s got two stories.
It’s got a garden.
And the front door is open.
It’s a house at the bottom of a lake.
For the teens, there is only one rule: no questions. And yet, how could a place so spectacular come with no price tag? While the duo plays house beneath the waves, one reality remains:
Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home.
James and Amelia, both seventeen years old, meet at James’ father’s hardware store. James has seen Amelia before and finally works up the courage to ask her on a date. The two decide to go canoeing on his uncle’s lake – a private spot that overlooks the mountains. On their date, they venture to an adjacent lake and realize that if they can maneuver the canoe through a large pipe, a third lake may be on the other end. Risking getting stuck and damaging the canoe, the teens go for it and after some struggle, end up in a third, even more secluded lake. At first, the third lake seems unimpressive compared to the others. It has an old smell, like something unused and the views aren’t nearly as spectacular. However, as they paddle around, they soon realize there is a house under the water. It has been completely submerged though there are no other signs of life or residences nearby. Intrigued, James and Amelia decide to explore further, jumping in and venturing as far as their lungs will allow. It becomes readily apparent that they’ll need scuba gear in order to explore more, and when Amelia realizes that the house is fully furnished, the teens decide to do whatever it takes to get back to their underwater house. As the teens spend more and more time at the lake and beneath the water exploring the house, their attitudes start to change as if a magnetic pull is keeping them by the water. They start spending nights on a hand built raft and feel an ache whenever they have to leave. But something dark seems to be watching them as well. It’s unclear if the house has some darker force within it and because the teens vowed not to ask ‘how’ or ‘why’, they may never know how the house ended up beneath the lake or why it seems to have mysterious powers. This was an incredibly intriguing novella. I was hooked from the first page and basically read it in a single sitting. However, it left me wanting more. There was a lot of suspense but I’m not really sure what it built up to. I’m also not entirely sure I understand what happened – but maybe that’s the point?
This was an interesting book to say the least. I thought it was a fascinating concept of finding a house at the bottom of a lake and basically making it their own. However, I just didn’t feel connected to it. The chemistry wasn’t really there for me between the two characters, and it wasn’t very realistic to me how their feelings progressed. The first half of the book just felt like I was going through the motions to get to the end. I was planning to give it two stars, but based on the end, I decided to up it to three. I was still a bit confused at the end, but some books are intended to be left that way so that was probably just a personal issue on my end. It’s a short book, and I do think some people will really love it, but it just wasn’t quite right for me.
Thank you to NetGalley and Del Rey Books for a copy of this novella!