From the opening lines (above), Gwendolyn Kiste establishes the world for her story and shows us she understands. She understands small towns and incessant gossip, the self-righteous who claim they would never and then indulge to their heart’s content under the guise of sharing concerns or prayer requests. There’s always a way to justify maligning those we disapprove of, and In the Rose-Colored House Where They Died features a background chorus of characters who illustrate this.
Joanna is enduring life in her small, dead-end town, with her dead-end job, with her dysfunctional family and no sign of happiness in sight. Joanna is like so many of us, who struggle to find our place in society, despite our unhappiness with our surroundings.
Small towns are fascinating in unexpected ways. Maybe people in cities don’t feel they have to hide the same way, because they’re obscured by the masses.
Or maybe it’s just as simple as some people having the wisdom to conceal their truths and not push them on anyone. Whether they concealed things out of the need for self preservation or trust that people will find their own way to the truth, there are a lot of secrets buried beneath the surface in The Rose-Colored House Where They Died, and although many things about the town are exactly as they seem, others aren’t. For Joanna, the truths have been obscured by her own experiences and presumptions.
Sometimes, we see exactly what we want to see. Or what others have told us we should see.
And in order for that to change, we must be open to seeing the truth.
On the surface, In the Rose-Colored House Where They Died is a story about possession and trying to cure a group of possessed girls who just aren’t normal. Part of the intrigue is that we don’t really understand why townsfolk assume the girls are possessed, but lack of understanding doesn’t stop the townsfolk from saving money to hire exorcists to try to cure the girls of their wicked ways.
In the Rose-Colored House Where They Died follows Joanna as she drops her blinders and learns to see the whole picture. Ultimately, Joanna will have to decide if she has the courage to be true to herself, or if she’s going to continue conforming to the expectations of society.
I received a copy of The Rose-Colored House Where They Died from the owner of Thunderstorm Books. I wasn’t asked to review it, but I loved this book so much I wanted to share my thoughts on it. I’ve become a huge Kiste fan over the last few years, and haven’t read anything by her that’s disappointed.
Now, this is where you should stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers. Although the book is sold out on the Thunderstorm Books site, you can check booksellers who specialize in limited editions or pick up one of Kiste’s other stellar works, such as Boneset & Feathers or The Rust Maidens.
On a whole other level, In the Rose-Colored House Where They Died is a story about feminism. About self-autonomy. About throwing off the shackles of expectations and being true to yourself, gossip hounds be damned. This is where the work really shines, and it becomes apparent that the notion of possession is symbolic. Throughout history, people have been ostracized and vilified for failing to conform to societal expectations. While one town burned suspected witches at the stake, another institutionalized women who didn’t smile widely enough and curtsy just right.
I sensed where the work was headed early on, but only because of the lack of details surrounding the alleged “possessions” and the nature of Kiste’s other works. And it really doesn’t matter, because this is one of those times when anticipation is the payoff, and the story still has some surprises in store. I was engrossed from start to finish, and thankfully managed to read the book without breaking the spine. This edition is gorgeous, and I’ll cherish this book for years to come.