||[Oct. 27th, 2009|11:22 am]
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
Back in 2007, I declared Sarah Langan's second novel, The Missing, to be her early-career masterpiece. I was wrong. It takes nothing away from the strength of The Missing to say that the honor really belongs to her latest novel, Audrey's Door. Put another way, if The Missing is Langan's 'Salem's Lot, Audrey's Door is her The Shining.
Langan has a unique ability to create profoundly damaged characters that the reader not only cares about but can also identify with, even if our own baggage is nothing like theirs. It is, unquestionably, the strength of Langan's prose that allows us to step into the shoes of her characters so completely and with such emotional depth that it doesn't matter if we've never suffered from OCD the way Audrey Lucas, the latest in her line of broken heroines, does. Audrey is rendered so carefully and completely that we become her. We don't resist. Instead, we welcome it because the transition into her mind is shockingly smooth.
A smooth transition is also what Audrey happens to be looking for at the start of the novel. Suffering from OCD and trying to live with the emotional weight of having a manic-depressive and possibly delusional mother, she leaves her fiance Saraub Ramesh and moves into the Breviary, a legendary apartment building in Washington Heights with impossibly low rents. This being a Sarah Langan novel, all the supporting characters are given their chance to shine, and that includes Audrey's elderly and eccentric neighbors, a veritable Greek chorus that becomes creepier and loonier as the novel progresses. (In this way, the novel reminds me a lot of the best parts of Rosemary's Baby.) As Audrey learns more about the shocking act of violence that took place in her apartment before she moved in, she finds herself with a new and surprising compulsion: to build a door in the middle of her living room.
With Audrey's Door, I firmly believe Langan (who, in the interest of full disclosure for this review, is a close friend of mine, though I do try to be impartial when reviewing friends' work) fulfills the promise we saw in her earlier novels and cements herself as one of the most exciting voices in contemporary horror. I can't wait to see where she takes us in her next novel. Or next dozen novels, for that matter. As a reader, I'm like putty in her hands. And like Audrey with the Breviary, I'm unable to resist Langan's influence once it has its hold on me.