Tuesday, June 30, 2020

"Home Before Dark"

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer.

Now a full-time writer, Sager is the author of Final Girls, an international bestseller that's been published in 25 languages, and the New York Times bestsellers The Last Time I Lied and Lock Every Door.

Sager applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Home Before Dark, and reported the following:
In Home Before Dark, a woman named Maggie Holt returns to the allegedly haunted house her family lived in for twenty days when she was a child. Her father later wrote a bestselling memoir about their time there—a book that ultimately tore the family apart. On page 69, adult Maggie is exploring the house for the first time in twenty-five years. She finds a photograph of her family taken before they moved into the house and thinks about how much they’ve changed since then.
In the photo, my father has an arm snaked around my mother’s waist, pulling her close. She’s looking at him instead of the camera, flashing the kind of smile I haven’t seen from her in years.

One not-so-big, happy family.

Until we weren’t.

In the photo, I stand in front of my parents, sporting pigtails and a missing front tooth that mars my wide grin. I look so young and so carefree that I hardly recognize myself.
While Home Before Dark doesn’t pass the test in terms of plot—there’s not a mention of ghosts, and the book is full of them—page 69 does hammer home the book’s theme of trying to understand the past and how it affects the present.

Maggie knows nothing about the veracity of the book her father wrote. All she knows is that she’s pretty sure her parents were lying about what happened in that house, it destroyed their marriage and hurt her in so many ways. Maggie has spent most of her life living in the shadow of that book, in which she played a starring role. Her return to the house is an attempt to rewrite her story.
I don’t like looking at this younger, happier version of myself. It reminds me of who I once was—and who I might be now if the Book hadn’t happened.
In that sense, page 69 is a perfect encapsulation of Maggie’s struggle. She knows she’s changed. She knows her family changed. What she doesn’t understand—and won’t until she learns the truth behind her father’s book—is why they changed.
Visit Riley Sager's website.

--Marshal Zeringue