Monday, November 24, 2014

The Midget's House - Anita Bartholomew

    2011; 288 pages.  Full Title : The Midget’s House (A Circus Story … A Love Story … A Ghost Story)  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Contemporary Fiction; Cozy Paranormal.  Overall Rating : 7½*/10.

    Old Aunt Enid has died.  She’s left her home to her niece Marisa.  It’s an old, somewhat rundown house, but it has its charm.  And its gopher tortoises.  And, rumor has it, its ghost.  Despite this, when Marisa arrives, she finds that several people want the place.

    There’s Enid’s cousin Otto, who lives on the grounds of the estate and who was Enid’s caretaker in her final years.  And Nicholas Young, an investor who owns the tax lien on the place.  If Marisa doesn’t come up with a bunch of $$ quickly to pay off those taxes, the estate will be his.  Then there’s the land developer John Guinness, who’s interested in both the land and Marisa.  Finally, the Sarasota Green Coalition who, on behalf of the endangered gopher tortoises, will sue the pants off of Marisa if she turns one shovelful of dirt on the grounds to disturb their habitat.

    But Marisa feels curiously drawn to her newly-acquired house.  She’s going to keep it (if she possibly can), and learn its history (if she possibly can).   After all, there must be some reason for a ghost to be hanging around.

What’s To Like...
    The book’s subtitle says it all: The Midget’s House is an ambitious blend of a circus story, a love story, and a ghost story.  While there is a paranormal element, the story isn’t particularly scary, and I don’t think Anita Bartholomew intended it to be.  The book is a lot closer to Marley And Me (if we ‘borrow’ The Christmas Carol’s Marley) than to Poltergeist.

    The storyline alternates between the present (told in the 3rd person and from Marisa’s POV), and the 1920’s (told in the 1st person and from Lucinda’s POV).  Lucinda is now a ghost - that’s not really a spoiler – but back then she was alive, vertically-challenged, and eking out a living in the circuses and freak shows.

    Plotwise, not much happens in the Lucinda chapters until the second half of the book, but the early 1920’s were the glory days for the traveling shows, and you get a very nice ‘feel’ for the life of a carney back then.  I found Lucinda’s story to hold my interest more than Marisa’s, even though the latter had a storyline from the start.

    You will meet a slew of interesting characters in both timelines, and it was difficult to guess which ones were the good guys, and which ones were the baddies.  I liked that.  Also, Marisa’s New Age friends were a hoot to get to know.  This is a standalone novel and the odds of there being a sequel seem small.

Kewlest New Word...
Chumming (v.) : the practice of luring animals, usually fish such as sharks, by throwing “chum” into the water.  “Chum” is fish parts and blood, which attract fish due to their keen sense of smell.
    Louder now, she chanted:
    “Gatta, gatta, peragatta, perasatgatta, bodiswava.”
    Rena repeated it several times then held her hand up for silence.
    “Follow me, repeat what I say and do as I do.”  The nun-turned-psychic grabbed a handful of seed from the bowl.  Marisa and Kelly each did the same.  Scattering a few seeds in front of her, Rena intoned, “Feed the hungry ghosts … feed the hungry ghosts.”  (loc. 2552)

    “Gib’town may not look like much to you now, but we used to have us a tight-knit little community here, the freak capital of the world.  Did you know that?  I mean, we had a giant for our fire chief, a constable who was a dwarf, and the Monkey Girl called out the Bingo numbers on Tuesday nights.  That girl, I tell you, fur all up and down her face and body but, damn, she had the prettiest voice.  I’d go to Bingo just for the pleasure of hearing her call out ‘B5’.”  (loc. 4800)

Kindle Details...
    The Midget’s House sells for $3.99 at Amazon.  At present, it is the only full-length novel that Anita Bartholomew has available for the Kindle.

Like my brother Albert would say, I was plum goshbustified.  (loc. 1907)
    The two storylines converge slowly but steadily, and the action picks up in the latter stages of the book, building towards a tension-filled climax.  Unfortunately, the ending is somewhat of a letdown.  Marisa’s financial crisis is solved by the late introduction of a deus ex machina,  and when the paths of Lucinda and Marisa finally cross, it is disappointingly brief.

    Still, it says something about Anita Bartholomew’s writing skills that I was left hungering for more Marisa-&-Lucinda.  So who knows, maybe our two protagonists can be brought back for a Book 2 via some convoluted plot-writing.  Hey, they brought Bobby back from the dead in the old TV series Dallas.  So anything’s possible.

    The Midget’s House is a satisfying read as long as you recognize that it’s not going to be a Stephen King thriller.  Pick it up when you’re in the mood for something warm, fuzzy, and pleasantly paranormal.

    7½ Stars.  Add ½ star if you were (or are) always thrilled to find out the circus was in town and you’d get to go.

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