Written by: Tera Kirk
Audrey Lucas is an up-and-coming architect with a new job at a big firm and a major design award under her belt–yet, everything outside of her professional life seems to be falling apart. She’s recently broken up with her live-in boyfriend, and her relationship with her mother has always been complicated. At least the rent at her new apartment, The Breviary, is super-cheap.
Built as part of an architectural philosophy-slash-cult called chaotic naturalism, The Breviary is the only such building that hasn’t collapsed. Aside from being structurally unsound (with disastrous and fatal results), these children of chaotic naturalism are subject to morbid rumors: suicides, murders and madness are common in people who live in them. But the Breviary is a marvel of architectural and philosophical history, and Audrey needs the money the rent will save her.
It isn’t long before things get weird, however. Odd neighbors, strange dreams…are these just part of the stress in Audrey’s life? Signs she’s developing the same mental illness as her mother? Or are they evidence of something sinister in the building?
In the preface, author Sarah Langan lists several haunted house stories that have influenced Audrey’s Door. This is unfortunate, since I was primed to compare her work to these others. It’s also unfair to the story. While the influences are clear, Audrey’s Door isn’t a copy–it’s a compelling tale all on its own. It’s just fun to read, thanks to Audrey’s voice. Her sense of humor and resilience shine through even when things are going horribly wrong, and even at their creepiest her weird neighbors are somehow endearing. (If anything, Audrey is a little too jokey, possibly as a defense mechanism.) A story like this–where chills come in the form of mysteriously open doors and strange dreams rather than gory action–runs on the strength of its characters.Audrey’s Door has that strength in spades.
As for what actually is going on, I’ll just say that the ending is unexpected and fits very well with the novel’s focus on characters–their identities, their interactions with each other. I liked everyone so much that I didn’t want Audrey’s Door to end–although it puts its characters through a lot. Sarah Langan has a real gift for writing characters that the reader cares about, and for taking bits of other stories and crafting something fresh out of them.