Holiday messaging revolves around a single keyword: family. And for some, this time of year offers welcome reunions with far-flung family members and evenings of warmth and laughter at the familial homestead.
For others, it does not. This post is for those who grin and bear it as the holiday season washes over them. If your feelings are a bit darker this time of year, pick up any of these horror reads that focus on the family — often to sinister results.
White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi
It’s never a good sign when the house has a POV chapter. Part haunted house story and part coming-of-age tale, Oyeyemi’s third novel is both naturally and supernaturally spooky. At the heart of things are twins Miranda and Eliot Silver, mourning the death of their mother while living in the ancestral home with their father.
The house — which, again, is awake enough to narrate parts of the novel — is not the only thing passed through generations: Miranda has inherited a rare eating disorder that’s plagued the women of her mother’s family. Miranda’s condition grows more intense following her mother’s death, just as her connection to her father and brother drifts.
By turns Gothic and surreal, the novel is a tapestry of unravellings: of Miranda’s sanity, of the Silver family, and of the house’s restraint.
The Good House, Tananarive Due
If you’d like to double-down on stories of nefarious real estate, Due’s chunky generational tale is a great shot or chaser to White Is for Witching. This house, in Sacajawea, Washington, has belonged to the Toussaint family for generations. But for Angela Toussaint, the current owner, it’s not filled with happy memories.
Reeling from the suicide of her son, Angie looks for answers. She finds them in the titular house, plagued by an insidious spirit somehow tied to the actions of Angie’s grandmother Marie. Tragedy stalks every page of this big book, with even bigger things to say about racism and alienation.
Baby Teeth, Zoje Stage
Stage’s buzzy debut is, in short, keenly effective birth control. The reason is Hanna, the 7-year-old girl who’s never spoken a word but has managed to get kicked out of a series of preschools and kindergarten classes.
We see the story from two perspectives: Hanna’s and her mother Suzette’s. Hanna loves her father, but Hanna does not like Suzette. Suzette knows this, though her husband does not.
What Suzette doesn’t know is that Hanna has plans, plans to rid herself of her troublesome mother for good. But we know, and we know this can’t end well.
The Graveyard Apartment, Mariko Koike
On the surface, everything looks rosy for the Kano family, who’ve just moved into a new, desirable Tokyo apartment.
In true Japanese horror fashion, things are much bleaker and eerier than they seem. The family’s new apartment building is bordered by a cemetery, a Buddhist temple, and a crematorium. The convergence of these things spells doom for this particular dwelling.
Soon after moving in, the Kanos’s neighbors begin moving out and the strange events begin. But there’s something personal about the malevolence visited upon the family, something related to a dark long-buried secret.
Slice of Cherry, Dia Reeves
Reeves’s Portero books are bizarre, bloody, and utterly irresistible. (They’re also proof that YA horror can be as gruesome as any other.) This second novel focuses on Kit and Fancy Cordelle: sisters, best friends, and daughters of the notorious Bone Saw Killer.
Though their Texas town is filled with literal monsters, the Cordelle sisters are treated as the real wild cards, outcasts because of their father’s actions. And maybe that’s because the apples didn’t fall too far from the tree. Aided by a mysterious portal to a different world, the girls launch their own merciless killing spree, taking care of rapists, abusers, and other low-lifes the way they know how.
But the biggest challenge facing them? Growing up and growing apart.