karen's Reviews > Bedbugs

Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters
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Feb 06, 2016

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Read on September 07, 2012


every book starts out as a four-star book for me. i am hopeful, but realistic. and then as i read, the book will either gain a star, or lose one (or more). this one maintained its four-star rating until the very end, when an epilogue i thought was a wishy-washy letdown ruined it for everyone .too brief, too neat, too facile, and it made every flaw of the book that i had let fly before that point more prominent in my mind. we call this bel canto syndrome.

before that ill-considered ending, this book was fun, but not life-changing. conveniently, this review now exists so i don't have to muse too much here about my expectations for books to entertain or enlighten me, or both, and the way i approach different "kinds" of books and what books qua books can do for a reader.

because i just wanna talk about bedbugs.

if you are in one of the places without a little red spot on it:

you have probably never had a bedbug scare.i thought i had bedbugs once. thankfully, i did not, but i lived through the really bad bedbug epidemic here in new york a couple years back, where people were afraid to go to the movies, buy used clothes and books, go to the library, sit on the benches on subway platforms, look people in the eye.... i knew a few people who had infestations, and honestly, it is probably easier to just light your place on fire and start over than it is to get rid of bedbugs.

look at these little bastards

and their disgusting bites:

so, yeah, i did find a bedbug in my house one time. but only one, and i smooshed it like crazy, and nothing ever happened again. my point is, bedbugs make you crazy. they do. for months after i saw that little bastard, i was doing daily bedsheet inspections, checking my cat's bedding, shaking out clothing, examining crevices between bed-and-wall, constantly imagining that i felt them crawling over my skin when i was drifting off.

so when i read a book about a women tormented by bedbugs that seem to only be targeting her, and who begins to go crazy because of them... well, i can relate, is all i'm saying. bedbug paranoia will make you crazy. and in susan's case, when no one believes her and the exterminator finds no trace of them in her apartment, and her husband is distracted by work and financial stress, and she is self-medicating, losing sleep, and her doctor is suggesting she may instead have a case of the crazies, well, things can get out of hand pretty quickly.

to backtrack to plot a little, susan and alex are happily married, they have a tiny little daughter, and they figure it is time to move to a bigger place, even though susan has recently quit her job to focus on her painting, and alex's business is going through a transitional period. they find a too-good-to-be-true cheap, huge apartment with a seemingly perfect studio-nook for susan, an eccentric landlady, and all seems well. once they move in, however, they start to notice some flaws they overlooked in their excitement. little things, but these little things will compound. the handyman warns them never to go in the basement, there is a mystery surrounding the previous tenants' hasty departure,and strange things begin to occur. and escalate.

it is a fairly lightweight horror novel, but i have no problem with lightweight. it's the same old story - young happy couple moves to a dream apartment, unease and suspicions lead to marital dissonance and emotional isolation... and then ...bedbugs. ooooor aaaare theeeeyy?

susan is an unsympathetic character. very fussy and picky, a little high-strung with her little lists and her judgmental perfectionism and unemployed laziness. it is an oddly mixed bag of traits, and she's not someone you are going to root for, at first.

of course, as she descends into madness she becomes more likeable, more sympathetic.

and i gotta say, and my reputation is known, but their kid, emma, is a really cute little-kid character.

it is great and fun until the end, sez me. i'm not sure how i would have preferred it to end, and honestly, it was really just the epilogue that cranked me out. it felt pat, tidy, distanced from the narrative, like the events preceding it had no real effects on the characters. and that just didn't wash with me.

but as a fun distraction that will make you itchy for most of the book, it is effective and fun.

good enough, but not great.

however, those are some terrific endpapers:

 photo IMG_2903_zpsrbluzpup.jpg

 photo IMG_2902_zpsko3iohef.jpg
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 52) (52 new)

message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I have this on audio book. See iPod Karen :)

message 2: by Jason (new)

Jason That's funny that you say books start off with 4 stars for you. I am very similar to that. We're both such optimistic little outlookers! For me, though, this means life is a constant disappointment.

No, I'm kidding—I'm still positive!!

karen well, our state motto is "hope," right??? rhode islanders are a sunny people, despite...

gaeta1 - (how you do subscripts??) so glad you didn't have to burn your house down, velveteen rabbit style. bedbugs are the worst invention ever.

message 4: by Jason (new)

Jason it's not a subscript- Goodreads uses Georgia font which renders the 1, the 2, and the 0 a little smaller than the other numbers. 1234567890

karen oh! i see! when i typed it, it was a huuuuge one, and now it is wee. like rhode island.

message 6: by Jason (new)

Jason yes! when you put it in the box (LGM), it is one font. but when you press post, it comes out as Georgia.

karen what a country!

karen seriously - best 300 bucks you ever spent!

message 9: by rachel (new)

rachel Ha, like you I live in the place that is a solid wall of red. I am in the midst of an emergency move and fumigate thanks to bedbugs, which have infested my apartment not once but twice in 4 years.

Let's just burn down the entire East Coast so we don't all wind up with PTSD from wee bloodsuckers preying on us all night.

karen oh, my god.

yeah, your apartment's gotta go. i'll start here in new york and meet you in the middle, burning all the way..

message 11: by Breon (new) - added it

Breon Randon haha I LOVE your reviews. I really do. i was gonna skip this one just out of the sheer make my skin crawlness of it all, bhut now I have to at least try it.

message 12: by rachel (new)

rachel Gaeta, yep, that's exactly what happened. They come in through the shared walls and I am often finding the corpses next to my bedroom radiator. A previous tenant living in the apartment above me had them, they got into the walls and have been there ever since, even with two treatments. I loved my apartment but am not going back!

Karen, it looks like Philly has caught up to NYC in terms of bedbugs per capita. The Midwest is lookin real nice right now...

message 13: by Brandon (new)

Brandon The current city I live in, Halifax, has had bed bug outbreaks in the past and it terrifies me.


karen shudder.

message 15: by Katie (new)

Katie Where is Billy the Exterminator when you need him...

message 16: by Arah-Lynda (new)

Arah-Lynda Nasty, nasty, nasty

message 17: by Kinga (new)

Kinga My ex-boss said once: "Kinga is really tough. In years of knowing her the only time I ever saw her cry was when she had bedbugs."

Before coming to London I didn't know bedbugs were a thing in 21st century! In Poland they are a thing you read about in books about Nazi occupation and concentration camps. Or they are the sort of 'bedbugs' that the communist government planted in your house and in your phone to spy on you.

So when I moved to that place in Elephant&Castle I first thought I had some sort of allergy. It was one of my local friends that told me to check the sheets for red dots. After that I practically didn't sleep for a week until I boiled all my possessions and then moved out. It was a nightmare and I was paranoid for months after that.

karen yuk yuk yuk.

yeah, that would make me cry, too.

message 19: by Kinga (new)

Kinga For months after that I would suddenly jump out of my bed in the middle of the night, turn all the lights on and flip the blankets and pillows looking for those suckers.

Not surprisingly most of my relationships from back then were one night stands.

message 20: by j (new)

j karen, have you seen bug?

karen no, but i love michael shannon! thanks, joel!

message 22: by j (new)

j karen wrote: "no, but i love michael shannon! thanks, joel!"

don't thank me too soon, that movie left a scar. it is all kinds of fucked up.

karen no! you recommended it!! however i feel about the movie will be the way i feel about you forever and ever!

message 24: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Even if you have bedbugs you most likely won't see them unless it's a really bad infestation, so what you're supposed to look for instead is their poo which are tiny black flecks that look like pepper and most commonly would be found on the mattress seams. Also bedbugs can live up to 6 months in between meals. And for god sake use the luggage rack when traveling and never set your luggage on the bed or floor.

message 25: by j (new)

j karen wrote: "no! you recommended it!! however i feel about the movie will be the way i feel about you forever and ever!"

technically i asked if you had seen it. i am interested in your reaction however. WATCH IT NOW.

karen Kristen wrote: "Even if you have bedbugs you most likely won't see them unless it's a really bad infestation, so what you're supposed to look for instead is their poo which are tiny black flecks that look like pep..."

i will just never travel. ever. and now i am going to spend my friday night looking for bug poo. but i will make it festive by wearing a fancy frock.

it is on the netflix, cunningham.

message 27: by Kristen (last edited Sep 14, 2012 10:20AM) (new)

Kristen I should mention I only know all that because I once had a torrid love affair with the Orkin Man, I fell in love when I saw him twirling his exceeding long wand all about gushing chemical love unto my bushes.

That or we had bedbugs at my job twice. Whichever make me sound more exciting.

karen parallel dimensions, kitten. have it both ways, LGM

message 29: by Barry (new) - added it

Barry It is ONLY because of the fact that I thought that Mr. Winters' 'Last Policeman' trilogy was BRILLIANT that I would dare approach such a squeevishly- (?!?!) -themed book. Your review helps lure me all the more...

karen i have to read that trilogy. i am very curious about it.

message 31: by James (new)

James Thane I also really like the "Last Policeman" series. Hadn't seen this one.

message 32: by Barry (new) - added it

Barry I only picked this one up because when I first read The Last Policeman, I searched my store to see how many copies we had left (had to pimp it out, you know?). Bedbugs turned up, and the rest is a history of uncertain (read: skeeved-out) glances at the tome on my shelf, the one book out of four that I own from him which I have yet to read...

karen i am just really curious about how the last policeman series ends. but don't you dare tell me

message 34: by Barry (new) - added it

Barry Stuff happens. People talk. I can say no more.

karen wow - that sounds AMAZING!!!

message 36: by Barry (new) - added it

Barry Also? One guy? He has HAIR.

karen woah - too far. now i know EVERYTHING!!!

message 38: by Barry (new) - added it

Barry I know! I'm a spoiling sumbitch.

karen okay, i'm going to tear myself away from goodreads so i can actually READ something so i can one day get to this series.

message 40: by Barry (new) - added it

Barry Smart plan! I'll do the same. G'day!

Kristen Navarro Sort of freaked me out

message 42: by j (new)

j Oh my god my landlord who lives below me called last night to say his apartment had bedbugs. From the mattress he kept (!) from the former tenants of our apartment. But he left the mattress outside for two weeks after they moved out so that's probably how they hot there, RIGHT?????????

karen that would be the optimistic way to look at things! but he's going to bring on the experts, right?

message 44: by j (new)

j He said he got his room or whatever treated. But that we should be watchful and aware.

I am aware that bedbugs are a good reason to break a lease...

karen yeesh. well, be wary. those things do NOT mess around.

message 46: by jean mac millan (new)

jean mac millan I hate bedbugs!

message 47: by Jason (new)

Jason =(

message 48: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Ugh, that map. I checked and my town is #1 for bedbug increase, although they don't give figures so it could be up from zero. But yuck. Did not need to know.

message 49: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Jones I was just reading this: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/... ... and then I come on GR and read this! Oy!

message 50: by Barry Blonde (new)

Barry Blonde whwt a bizarre plot line.

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