The House of Discarded Dreams
From Publishers Weekly
Lyrical writing and rich imagination compensate for loose plotting in this quirky, joyous fantasy. College student Vimbai moves to a house on the New Jersey shore to escape her bickering parents. Her housemates are a bit unusual: Maya is being followed by a pack of mystical animals, and Felix has a black hole sitting on his head. As the house drifts out to sea, Vimbai's grandmother's ghost starts doing housework and giving advice. Felix draws a "Psychic Energy Baby" out of the phone lines, and the house expands to include forests and lakes. Vimbai's biggest concern is whether missing classes will affect her application to grad school. Somehow, the overall effect is dreamily compelling rather than farcical, as Sedia (The Secret History of Moscow) shows how competing natural and supernatural worldviews can enrich each other.
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Vimbai, who studies invertebrate zoology because of a fascination with horseshoe crabs, moves into the house on the beach in order to escape her Zimbabwean immigrant mother’s intensity; she finds something strange and beautiful. There are two roommates: Zach, who has a pocket universe where his hair should be, and Maya, who works in an Atlantic City casino. Vimbai’s dead grandmother haunts them, a ghostly presence who tells Zimbabwean children’s stories and does the dishes. When the house comes unmoored and drifts away to sea, Vimbai must bargain with ghostly horseshoe crabs, untangle the many and varied stories that have come loose in the vast worlds of the house, and find a way home. From Maya’s urban nightmares to Vimbai’s African urban legends, the house is filled with danger and beauty and unexpected magic. On one level, this is a reflection of ancient fairy tales and legends; on the other, it’s a perfectly straightforward tale of finding oneself in a bizarre world. Either way, Sedia’s prose is a pleasure, her story a lovely place to have spent time, even with the horrors her characters face. --Regina Schroeder