’Those who live in the walls must adjust, must twist themselves around in their home,
stretching themselves until they’re as thin as air. Not everyone can do what they can.
But soon enough, they can’t help themselves. Signs of their presence remain in a house.
Eventually, every hidden thing is found.’
Elise knows every inch of the house. She knows which boards will creak. She knows where the gaps are in the walls. She knows which parts can take her in, hide her away. It’s home, after all. The home her parents made for her. And home is where you stay, no matter what.
Eddie calls the same house his home. Eddie is almost a teenager now. He must no longer believe in the girl he sometimes sees from the corner of his eye. He needs her to disappear. But when his older brother senses her, too, they are faced with a question: how do they get rid of someone they aren’t sure even exists?
And, if they cast her out, what other threats might they invite in?
“Listen. We know there are people who hide in our homes. They crawl into attic spaces….flit between the rooms….just outside the reach of sight.” It’s a terrifying thought.
If I could give Girl in the Walls ten stars I would in a heartbeat. I’ve never read anything like it before. But it’s not just the story, it’s the poetry of the writing. The depth of feeling. The beauty of the descriptions. The family dynamic. The references to the Norse gods. And so much more. I was entranced.
There is a touch of Gothic fantasy in the style that makes you wonder if the girl in the walls is real. Maybe she is a ghost. Maybe everyone else is. I know some of my fellow Pigeons (in my book club) found it a bit improbable that someone could live in the walls of a house. But then I don’t know the type of house which she inhabits. The walls must be double-thickness and hollow in between, unlike my house, which is full of cladding.
The characters are so richly drawn. Elise trying to deal with her grief, Brody just trying to be a friend, Eddie and Marshall, brothers drawn together when only they believe in her and Traust (a name so near to trust) called out in naivety and feared in reality – a terrifying figure who drags them out by the hair because “…you have to find them. You have to root them out”.
It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. I predict great things to come from this author.
Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, A.J. and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable and intriguing read.
About the Author
A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, A. J. Gnuse received an MFA in fiction from UNC Wilmington and was a 2018 Kenyon Review Peter Taylor fellow. His short stories have been published in Guernica, Gulf Coast, Los Angeles Review, Passages North and other magazines. Girl in the Walls is his first novel.