The House of Discarded Dreams
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The House of Discarded Dreams

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  203 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Trying to escape her embarrassing immigrant mother, Vimbai moves into a dilapidated house in the dunes... and discovers that one of her new roommates has a pocket universe instead of hair, there's a psychic energy baby living in the telephone wires, and her dead Zimbabwean grandmother is doing dishes in the kitchen. When the house gets lost at sea and creatures of African...more
Paperback, 319 pages
Published November 16th 2010 by Prime Books (first published November 2010)
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Best Weird Fantasy
43rd out of 52 books — 41 voters
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Imaginative Fantasy and Literary Fiction
88th out of 102 books — 26 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 785)
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John
In some ways, more of a 4.5. Very well written, with a combination of whimsy and existential perturbation. The main character felt rather passive at times, and there is so much oddness thrown at you that it is hard to absorb it all. It is definitely a book that you sit and think about afterwards. Longer review to come!

Myself and a few other bloggers have been holding a Blog Carnival for the book. You can find a roundup of links at Paul Jessup's site: http://pauljessup.com/2011/05/09/hous... . I...more
Althea Ann
I expected to like this far more than I did. Maybe my expectations made me like it a little less? Not sure. I preferred both 'Alchemy of Stone' and 'Secret History of Moscow.'
In 'House of Discarded Dreams,' teenager Vimbai is seeking her independence (and, especially, some distance from her overbearing mother's socio-political opinions). She moves into her own place for the first time, becoming roommates with another young woman and her strange roommate - a guy whose 'hair' is actually a bizarre...more
Alice
What a very odd book. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you; far too many books about dreams wallow in mundanity for far too much of the narrative. This book picks up its dreamlike state pretty damn fast, and the weirdness only grows thicker with each page.

Let's see if I can capture how odd this book is. The book is about Vimbai, who is first-generation American of Zimbabwean parents (I think). She moves into a house on the shore. One of her roommates has a pocket universe for hair. They're soon...more
Laura Cowan
This is so similar to some things I'm writing that I was astonished and delighted when I found it. The story reads like a continuous dream, though the introduction of the first bizarre element is disorienting in its lack of reaction from the protagonist. Just magic realism, but I guess if she wasn't going to be surprised by it it would have helped me to have a reaction to that effect instead of no reaction at all. Eventually I settled into this element of the story, sort of like accepting that I...more
Beth
What a surprising book! Sedia uses an unexpected combination of themes and mythologies to create a world within our mundane, twenty-first-century world--the world of the house. And this Russian-born writer makes central to the story two women, a black woman with African immigrant parents and a U.S-born black woman, who forge a friendship from sharing dreams, fears, and their experiences as women of color in America. I picked this book up because I was fascinated by the mention on the back of the...more
Michael
THODD is one of those books that starts off in one particular direction and after about 30 pages takes a drastic 90-degree turn, ventures off in a different, completely weird direction, and never really comes back. It struck me that none of the main characters ever really reacted to the strangeness around them. They must be pretty resilient people, or maybe just used to that kind of thing (phantom limbs, cranial black holes and talking catfish). I feel like it all gelled well enough, though. I'v...more
Jaime Koebel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katy
Haunting and surreal.
Jason
3.5 stars

Highly imaginative modern adult fairytale. This fantasy of discarded dreams is reminiscent to me to the fairytales of Catherine Valente.

This is my second Ekaterina Sedia novel, Alchemy of Stone was the first, a novel that I really enjoyed. This one is very different and may not be very accessible to the main stream crowd.

This book is a wild, far out, and often extremely strange that will challenge most readers as to wether they can accept this or not. The story itself is really a simpl...more
Lucas
Aug 13, 2011 Lucas rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
I read little fantasy so picking up this one was an interesting experience for me. Especially given the setting and scope of the storyline, as a book of dream made flesh within the coastal world of contemporary New Jersey. Ekaterina Sedia's writing is an incredible mixture of moment-by-moment brilliance and insightful self-awareness. The book does such a fantastic job of fronting an elegant and convincing tale with this interplay between such classical allegories of storytelling and utterly orig...more
Ab
Amazing, absolutely amazing! I loved this book -- full of fantastically fantastical goings on, as Ekaterina Sedia is so good at. I also loved that the main character, Vimbai, is studying marine biology and loves horseshoe crabs. She's also the daughter of Zimbabwean parents, migrating to New Jersey when she was little. She has battled her whole life with her identity as an American, Zimbabwean, black-but not black enough for her American peers, African-but not African enough for her Africana Stu...more
Kristine
I picked this up because it was recommended on Writing Excuses as a good example of writing, "the other," where the other is a person of a different racial/ethnic background. The author does very successfully write a second generation black woman. While I haven't known any second generation black people, I have had quite a few second generation friends of other ethnicities and I really felt like I was reading about them, about the way they were torn by two different, often opposing cultures, hav...more
Alytha
I would like to give this one 3.5 stars, but I can't...

It's pretty good, and has some really insane ideas. I like books that just grab an insane idea and run with it. This one has a couple: a guy with a small universe instead of hair, a floating house that's much bigger on the inside, a ghost baby with too many arms and legs, more ghosts...

However, there's also some problems. I'm always a bit weary if an author writes something that is completely out of their culture. It actually wet quite well...more
Kit_r_writing
I went looking for this book because I'd heard good things about it, and it did not disappoint. Though the story itself moves at a languid pace, Sedia gets the narrative hooks in early by dropping us into the heroine's head.

When Vimbai, a college student and the daughter of Zimbabwean immigrants, moves out of her parents house and into the house on the dunes, she finds herself seduced both by the dreamy quality of life in the house and by the inexplicable happenings that take place inside; the h...more
Sonia
I do consider myself to be a highly practical person. Perhaps this is why I find fantasy writing to be unsettling. I've encountered some fantasy in my reading, however, that - while still unsettling and cosmically upending - I've quite enjoyed. These tend to be the grittier and darker fantasy tales I've encountered over the years.

The House of Discarded Dreams is fantastic, lulling, dreamy, and fantastically written. I loved it for all of these same elements. I didn't feel so much as if I were re...more
Kelly Flanagan
This was a fun book to read. Intriguing, fresh and full of truth. A book I think anyone can get something out of. As well as liking the story for itself, I was appreciative of some of the points made in the book. Points about respect and culture that many miss. A lot of he points are about race and culture and I felt the book explores the boundary between generations as well as many misconceptions about people who have made the move from one country to another for any reason.
After reading that y...more
Mark
From the description, I thought this would be contemporary fantasy but it is actually surrealism. That doesn't work for me personally as a literary style, but as far as I can tell it seems to accomplish what it intends to accomplish.
Danielle
I wish there was an option for negative star ratings on here. If only I could get back the time I wasted trying to get through to what only ended up as maybe 2/3 of this book. Beyond weird, less than interesting, no direction, I dont even think there was a story in there. I tried so hard to finish it hoping there would be a revelation at the end but after almost 2 months of snailing through it I just couldnt take anymore and gave up. And at that point I didnt even care about the ending. Straight...more
Fleece
DESPITE all the negative things i am going to write, this book was really intriguing and funny and enjoyable.

THAT SAID, i had some issues w/characters being a bit hollow and a lot of style choices

good things:
-qwoc protaaaag!!!!!!!!!!!!
-diasporic feels ): ):
-weird spirit + scifi stuff of the best kind
-fun environment
-grandmas
-horseshoe crabs
-vampires
-ghosts
-zombies
Beverley
If you aren't a fan of fantasy, this is not the book for you. This story is pure fantasy and symbolism. It is a painting that is being created as you read, a painting that is both abstract and reality, wrapped up together. It is a hard story to explain, as it is not based on the real world yet is is symbolically representing personal journeys and family connections. It is a layered story, that goes deeper than it is written and in my opinion, the author weaves a beautiful story. I recommend this...more
Leilani
This book was an odd mix of long stretches of nothing very much happening, explorations of a surreal landscape influenced by dreams, and meditations on family and culture. The main character's strong sense of self & growing sense of connection to her parents interested me, but the plot moved at a glacial pace. Things do finally stir toward the end, which I found not entirely satisfying. Still, the character development was strong, and there was some very intriguing imagery throughout, such a...more
Marissa
I am a real fan of Ekaterina Sedia, but this story--about a young woman whose seaside home is set adrift in the ocean among her dreams--lacked interest for me. The characters are listless and whiny and the action moves painfully slowly; so slowly, in fact, that I didn't finish the last 30 pages because the novel completely lost my interest.

Before you pick this one up, I would recommend The Secret History of Moscow or another of her books--very different thematically, but much more rewarding!
Mark McKenna
I'm going to mark this as "read" but I didn't finish it. I liked the Sedia's style; it's completely readable, conversational, artistic. She has a beautiful voice.

After a realistic opening the story becomes surreal, and stays surreal. I lost interest about 2/3 of the way through. The book has a magical quality some readers would love, but I lost my way the same way the main character did, floating in the ocean in her house, with her friends and mystical spirits.
reed
This reminded me of The Children's Hospital, but this book drew me in more and I enjoyed it more. Perhaps because it was half as long? But also I think because the story felt like it had a destination and the characters actually changed and grew a bit. Still, don't pick this up for an action-packed adventure - you'll be disappointed.
Kp
I thought the imagery in this book was stunning and unique. I enjoyed the fantastical beings that were less traditional than normally experienced in fantasy work. I found it a little difficult to engage with the story simply because the connective tissue was not there. I felt that the plot drifted along simply for the sake of making introductions to different parts of the house. Not a bad book though, but would not read it again.
Xdyj
A coming-of-age story of a daughter of Zimbabwean immigrants & her friends with magical realism. I like the dreamlike prose, the interplay between African & American esp. African American cultures, & the occasional social commentaries on culture, race & colonialism (which is imho rare in gerne fiction or YA fiction these days) while avoiding some of the common pitfalls of western left-leaning writers.
shatine
A book about a house that is not entirely real, a Psychic Energy Baby who collects phantom limbs, a pocket universe on someone's head, a pack of fox-possums, and an army of horseshoe crabs.

It is much sweeter and much less wacky than I expected from this premise; it's also about colonialism, and growing up the child of Zimbabwean parents in the US, and quiet, delicately-drawn love.
Evan Jensen
This was beautiful and bizarre and full of the best kind of personal growth. Also, as dreamlike and weird as it begins, I fell into the flow halfway through, or perhaps the narrative came into focus and Sedia's language evolved into something more concrete than I usually feel with her books. Run-on sentences aside, I love this one.
Lisa Grabenstetter
Lovely and odd in a submerged, dreamlike way. Sedia did a great job on the characterization, setting up Vimbai and Maya's personal struggles to work counter and in line with one another, and with the dream-enemies within the house.
It reminded me a lot of Helen Oyeyemi's 'The Opposite House', which is of course a good thing.
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Ekaterina Sedia is also credited as E. Sedia.
More about Ekaterina Sedia...
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“The ghost was not a ghost at all, or so it claimed - it claimed to be a psychic energy baby, birthed in some ethereal dimension, and pulled into the phone by the powerful magnetism of phone signals. It remembered with perfect clarity how it came to be - remembered coalescing from the membranous surface of the world, streaked with reflected light, humming with surface tension under the pressure of emptiness underneath. The Psychic Energy Baby found form among the emanations of people's minds and the susurrus of their voices, it found flesh in the shapes of their lips and eyes made, the surprise of 'o's and the sibilations of 's's; its skin stretched taut like a soap bubble, forged from the wet sound of lips touching; its thoughts were the musky smells and the nerves twined around the transparent water balloons of the muscles like stems of toadflax, searching restlessly for every available crevice, stretching along cold rough surfaces. Its veins, tiny rivers, pumped heartbeats striking in unison, the dry dallying of billions of ventricular contractions. And it spoke, spoke endlessly, it spokes words that tasted of dark air and formic acid. It could speak long before it took it's final shape.

And when it happened, when all the sounds and smells and words in the world, when all the thoughts had aligned so that it could become - then it found itself pulled into the wires, surrounded by taut copper and green and red and yellow insulation; twined and quartered among the cables, rent open by millions of voices that shouted and whispered and pleaded and threatened, interspersed with the rasping of breaths and tearing laughter. It traveled through the criss-crossing of the wires so fast that it felt itself being pulled into a needle, head spearing into the future while its feet infinitely receded into the past, until it came into a dark quiet pool of the black rotary phone, where it could reassemble itself and take stock.”
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