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Dream House: A Novel

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  525 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
“The perfect haunted house story for these unnerving times.” —New York Times

Dream House, the riveting debut novel from Pushcart Prize-winning author Valerie Laken, tells the story of one troubled house—the site of a domestic drama that will forever change the lives of two families. Embracing volatile issues such as race, class, and gentrification, while seamlessly mixing
ebook, 352 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 2009)
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Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was wonderful. I read it in about a day and a half because it was so hard to put down. And, weirdly, it made me both dread and long for a major home improvement project. Except we rent...Anyway, kudos to Valerie, for writing a completely absorbing and creepy and compassionate and wise novel.
Teetering between 3.5-3.75 STARS

Came across this one in the library (by accident). First it was the title that jumped out, then the cover & then the premise that drew me right in! Well, it wasn't exactly what i was expecting (as some other reviews stated) but I did enjoy the ride. There were a few places that I actually started to skim through a bit but for the most part, Dream House was an okay read. I would be interested to see what the author has in store next...
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I read this on the recommendation of my friend, Korrin. Good rec!

After 18 year old Walker Price kills his widowed mother's abusive and drug addled boyfriend, he is sent to prison for the next decade and a half. The young man daydreams of reclaiming the family home his pops and moms filled with love and hard work before his father's untimely death. Meanwhile, the Ann Arbor house (converted to a rooming house in the years between the murder and 2005, when the core of the story is told) is sold to
Jane C.
May 06, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Despite what the book jacket and inside cover said, I didn't think this was a ghost story, nor was it about race and class. I saw it as an exploration of what makes people ambitious. Walker's dad to make a good home for his family, Kate out of desperation, and Stuart not at all. It's so sad that they all faced such hardships. But it got creepy, that two people that had such horrific experiences in the house ended up helping Kate rehab it. Like many books, it had a lot going for it and a lot goin ...more
Jennifer Collins
Dream House presents itself as a suspenseful ghost story or horror novel--from the cover, to the jacket blurb, to the tone of the opening chapters. Sure, there's a question of whether you're going into a piece which is more horror or suspense, more creepy or supernatural, or more about a house or the ghosts within...but there's no question for a reader who comes directly to the book that some of these elements are in play. So, what's the problem? They're not.

Even though the book's first 50-100 p
Bookmarks Magazine

On many levels, critics praised Dream House, a domestic drama inspired by Laken's own experience buying and renovating a home in which a murder had occurred. No ordinary ghost story, it offers insight into the troubled human psyche and a deep inquiry into the meaning of home through multiple storylines. Lessons about materialism, self, sacrifices, class, race, and values also emerge. Reviewers agreed that the prologue is a short masterpiece and that the novel as a whole is an excellent portrait

Hummm. I'm not really sure where to go with this review. I didn't love it but I didn't slog through it either. I wasn't confused but I didn't fully understand either. I dunno it was just a three star book. It wasn't what I was expecting. I got the impression I was going to be reading a "haunted house" type book and....that was a negative. Still, the book did have a certain magnetic pull and did draw me into it. But in the end I wanted more. I had a lot of questions and would have enjoyed it more ...more
Dec 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes to read for fun.
After I finished the last page of the book and closed it....I forgot about it. Yes, it's sort of a sad story, and what not, but I just think it was OK. The main character seemed too uptight for my tatse. I actually felt bad for her husband. Maybe I misinterpreted the story, but I think Walker Price was guilty of the crime, were it a crime of passion or not, he still did it. He paid his debt, was let free and tried to convince everyone that he did it for a right reason. I don't but it. But overal ...more
Feb 09, 2009 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who have ever lived in houses
Not many writers are comfortable handling lots of different types of characters without making some of them into cardboard cutouts. What I admire most about this book is its huge range of people-- neurotic people, happy people, artistic people, autistic people, people freshly released from prison, children, and people in love-- and the way Valerie Laken makes them all real and important.
Mrs. Izzy
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It was a lot different than I thought it would be (in the best way possible). If you want to read a suspensful, heart warming story that allows you to get to know many different characters..then read this! I can't wait for her next book.
Terry Coffey
Jun 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best book I've read in a long time. Couldn't put it down. Apparently Valerie Laken's first and, wow, she's good with a plot.
Jun 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was wonderfully written, with the plot unfolding at just the right pace. A perfect book for vacation, or to pass the time on a long flight. An amazing first book by this author.
Apr 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Excellent. So often fiction lets me down, but this book did not. It did, however, keep me from sleep as I could not put it down in order to go to bed.
Jul 19, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Another case of missed marketing. From the cover and the jacket description, I was expecting a good haunted house tale. All I got was a dysfunctional marriage and an HGTV renovation show.
May 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good first novel! Several characters' lives entwine in unexpected ways... revolving around a 20 year old murder and the renovating of the house it happened in.
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some reason I was thinking there was actually going to be a haunted house, don't ask why, I'm not really sure where I got that impression from. I think I was a little tired when I first read the description.

A lot of the reviews I've read have tended to focus on Kate, and while you would probably consider her the "main" character, I found myself connecting to and understanding Stuart way more that it seems others have. Here was a man, who's biggest flaw was the lack of any real sense self es
Marissa Burdick
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me start out by saying that the cover jacket of this book is truly misleading. The dilapidated picture of a staircase plus the fact that a critic on the front cover literally called in a ghost story makes you think it's paranormal. Then you throw in mention of a murder and haunting and voila, you think you got a great paranormal story about ghosties on your hands.

Oh no. It's not the case. At all.

I think it's this disappointment that initially made me find it difficult to really become grabbe
Feb 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dream House is Valerie Laken's debut novel about a young married couple named Kate and Stuart who buy a run-down house desperately in need of serious repairs and renovation. When Kate learns that the house was the scene of a violent crime years ago and she meets a strange man who has been lurking around in the neighborhood, unforseeable relationships are formed and dark secrets about the house are eventually revealed.

Dream House is incredibly moving, and the best feature of the novel is Valerie
Feb 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-review
This book drew me in from the start - with its creepy prologue. I love a mystery, but more than that, I love a good character driven novel and I definitely found that in Dream House. This is the sort of novel that slowly releases its secrets to you - keeping you at the edge of your seat and anxious to know what happened and why.

The main characters, Kate and Walker are both obsessed with this house. Kate - has always felt that she's been a disappointment to her family and feels that by immersing
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fabulous novel!

This novel is a hard one for me to characterize. Cover states "ghost story", not really. It is not a "thriller" or "mystery" because the altering event of the story is the premise of the book. It is a page turner - I couldn't put the book down as the author mingled the three main characters. It is a story about healing. The novel also has crazy obvious symbolism - broken house, broken relationships.

The strength of the novel is how the author is able to authentically develo
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book cover/summary reads like this is a ghost story or some sort of thriller - it isn't, really. It was a little suspenseful in parts, but it wasn't a full blown thriller.

Kate and Stuart Kinzler buy a rickety old house with a horrible history - someone was murdered in the house. They find out about the murder at a time when their marriage is already on shaky ground. Stuart can't handle the stress and Kate's full attention to the house she wants to remodel, so he leaves. She meets Jay and Wal
Laura de Leon
For two days now, I've been thinking about what to say about this book. I'm still not sure. In fact, the book is quickly fading from my memory.

I enjoyed reading it, but I can't figure out why it didn't make a greater impression on me.

I liked the main character, in spite of (or maybe because of) her flaws. Yes, she's a bit self centered, and a bit obsessive, but who isn't? (What, that's just me? Oh, sorry!). I was amused by her husband, mired in the good ole' days of college, not quite ready to
The quote on the book cover describes this book as a ghost story. It isn't a ghost story in the conventional sense of the word, but a story about healing family rifts and coming to terms with the 'ghosts' that surround the characters lives and leave them tormented with no peace.
It is the story of a young couple who purchases their first home, with the husband only grudgingly agreeing to the purchase. When they find out that the house was the scene of a murder, the husband leaves.
It is the story
Nora Peevy
I discovered Valerie Laken at my local library's fundraiser book sale. When I read she teaches at the university where I started graduate school, my interest was piqued. Dream House, her debut novel, started out relatively slow. If you're willing to stick with the story, the plot does pick up after about four chapters. Its cover blurb is misleading. I thought I was purchasing a ghost story, but it wasn't much of one. It was a great study in character development, though. The writing is good, but ...more
Mar 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
A young couple purchases an old house in gentrifying Ann Arbor, Michigan, (Ianna!!) and the wife, Kate, throws herself into the renovation as an escape from her troubled marriage. Meanwhile, Walker Price is out of prison after serving 18 years for killing his mother's boyfriend inside that house, and he is trying to reclaim part of his past. One of Kate's teaching colleagues at the high school also has a connection to the house. By somewhat believable coincidence, both men end up helping Kate wi ...more
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Valerie Laken was my creative writing professor at Carthage College in 2006. She was one of my very favorite professors and gave me the opportunity to learn quite a bit about my writing and what it takes to be a strong writer. She taught me to show, not tell, something she does beautifully in her novel " Dream House." I'm so glad that I finally had the chance to sit down and read it and I will say that I enjoyed it very much. With many books I drift in and out of focus. But with this novel, I wa ...more
Mar 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book and am disappointed that Laken's new book is short stories instead of another novel. In this one, her debut novel, she weaves the story of a house where a murder took place and then, 18 years later, the lives of the woman who fixes it up and the two men who help her. These two men, she finds out later, are the murderer (released from jail) and one of the men on the clean-up crew who washed away the blood and stains.

The plot keeps the book moving forward, but so does the
Jul 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book in spite of the fact that I feel it was very insulting to Ypsilanti and EMU. I emailed the author about it and, to her credit, she responded promptly with a very nice email in which she stated that the negative comments about Ypsi reflected the point of view of only one character. I've given that a lot of thought, but I honestly don't believe that most readers would get that impression; my friends in Seattle who read it did not. (In fact, I read it because they wanted to know i ...more
Kate Watson
How a murder resignates in a home and subsequently effected a home buyer decades later is an intriguing idea, especially since our homes are our source of comfort and pride. Valerie Laken develops this idea into a story filled with rich characters and simple, but life altering events. I could certainly identify with Kate, who in her late twenties shrugs off society's expecations, and becomes her own person filled with uncertainty, but moral strength. [return]While this novel is not steeped in su ...more
Apr 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Gripping" is such a dumb book review word, but this one gripped me and wouldn't let go and made me stay up late and made me cry. DAMN IT, I hate crying. Great plotting, cool premise, and -- bonus! -- I think I could build a interior wall now. Plus, the best opening line of 2009, which I will partially type out here because you'll see what I mean by "gripping." "If you took away the police tape and the squad cars and the neighbors murmuring in a cluster on the sidewalk, it would look like the ki ...more
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Dream House 1 5 Oct 02, 2011 08:32AM  
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Valerie Laken has an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Slavic Literature from the University of Michigan. Her work has been published in such journals as Ploughshares, Antioch Review, the Chicago Tribune, and Alaska Quarterly Review. She has received a Pushcart Prize, the Missouri Review Editors' Prize, two Hopwood Awards, and an honorable mention in the Best American Short Stories. She teaches ...more
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