cover image Homebody


Orson Scott Card. HarperCollins, $24 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017655-6

Like its haunted-house centerpiece, Card's third dark fantasy novel (after The Lost Boys and Treasure Box) has great potential that shines through its superfluous detail. The Bellamy mansion is a venerable Victorian pile that has seen better days when it catches the eye of Don Lark, a widower who ""turns his loneliness and grief into the restoration of beautiful old houses."" Don's labors to restore the mansion to its former grandeur introduce him to a succession of women receptive to his emotional needs, including an amorous real estate agent, three dotty elderly neighbors who urge him to demolish the place and Sylvie Delaney, a squatter who has lived in the house secretly for a decade. All have been drawn to the mansion and its legacy of corrupted splendor through the shame of their private lives--and one turns out to be ghost whose past troubles are a touchstone for analogies between Don's home improvements and the need to rebuild dignity and character. Card's imaginative use of the haunted-house theme to explore the haunting power of guilt and remorse is deflated by facile observations on the theological significance of human suffering. All of his characters are sensitive studies of the crippling effects of emotional trauma, but several serve no purpose other than to speed the sometimes sluggish plot along with timely advice and miraculous feats of magic. These shortcomings aside, the novel is a powerful tale of healing and redemption that skillfully balances supernatural horrors with spiritual uplift. Film rights to Fresco Pictures. (Apr.)