In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods

In his first full-length novel, In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, Matt Bell (Cataclysm Baby) shatters narrative convention to deliver an allegory with the compelling power of mythology.

Two newlyweds build a house on a faraway shore. Together, they create their home, which the wife furnishes with objects she sings into existence. For a time, all is full of promise as they fish in their lake, keep house and expect the birth of their first child, which the husband desires above all things.

However, when the baby comes early, stillborn and deformed, the husband does the unthinkable and swallows it. The fetus remains in his body, taking on a stilted life of its own and becoming the inner voice of the husband's doubts as pregnancy after pregnancy fails. With every miscarriage, the wife sings more stars out of the sky, until finally the sky is dark save for two moons, one natural, one sung into being by the wife, who intends to crash it into the earth if she loses another child.

With doom literally hanging over their heads, the couple undertakes one last gestation that spells disaster not only for their marriage but also for the balance of life in the woods, where a mysterious and powerful bear reigns supreme over all creatures. To restore equilibrium to the land and his love, the husband must journey deep into the earth where his wife now hides.

Mythic elements give the characters in Bell's allegory a trace of the godlike even as they battle with a very human dilemma: how to sustain an unwillingly childless marriage. With searing, epic symbolism, Bell's debut novel wrings beauty from pain. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, Latah County Library District; blogger at Infinite Reads

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