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In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  1,161 Ratings  ·  300 Reviews
In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods tells the story of a newly married couple who take up a lonely existence in the title's mythical location. In this blank and barren plot far from the world they've known, they mean to start the family the unnamed husband wants so obsessively. But their every pregnancy fails, and as their grief swells, the husband─a ...more
ebook, 234 pages
Published June 18th 2013 by Soho Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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(showing 1-30)
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karen
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is beautiful and maddening. it is convoluted fabulism, sad and irrealy real.

the setting and the atmosphere are like a fairytale, like The Snow Child, but the truths it dissects: romantic relationships, parenthood, and regret, are real and dark dark dark.

if you don't have time to devote to it,though, don't bother. it's not a long book, so it's not like it is a real commitment you will have to be making, but i read this while in the middle of a million projects at work, and the language
...more
Kris
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book as an ARC from Netgalley.

In In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, Matt Bell has crafted a disturbing extended fable, in which he explores themes around marriage and parenthood, creation and destruction, and memory and aging. In haunting prose that echoes the cadences of oral tales and creation myths, he tells the story of a nameless couple who leave their families and friends after marrying and create a home for themselves in a quiet land, with a lake on one
...more
Tim
Feb 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
While I can tell the writer is a tolerably good stylist, and I can even tell he has a vivid imagination for fiction, this book is really quite terrible. It's much too ambitious, pretentiously so, all too aware of its aspirations towards the creation of a myth and caught up in a kind of fantastical world, not of this time (or any time) or of this place (or any place). I think it's about the erosion of meaning of fatherhood, or possibly about how we are continually destroying our planet, but by ab ...more
Scott Southard
I recently reviewed this book for WKAR's Current State.You can listen to my review here:

http://wkar.org/post/book-review-matt...

You can also read my book review below.

-

Sometimes the literary world can suffer from a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

We all know this story made famous by Hans Christian Andersen, of the ridiculous Emperor tricked into wearing nothing and the underlings around him too afraid to point out that he is only in his underwear. In the mind of the Emperor he is adorned in
...more
Zoeytron
The reviews are all over the place on this one, not surprising for such an irregular weave. I loved the darkness of it, the weirdness of it, but the writing style wore on me, the repetitiveness irritating. But then I would come across a passage like this - '. . . around it her silence continued speaking for years and years, the sound of her saying nothing.' Or a mention of a bowl made of mirrors - as you drink from it, it drinks of you.

It is a tale of yearning, loss and regret. And blood, lots
...more
Richard Thomas
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY RAN AT THE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

In Matt Bell’s debut novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods (Soho Press), we are lured into familiar territory—the world of fables and tall tales, where our expectations of the surreal, the grotesque, and the magical are fulfilled in ever-expanding layers. But beyond the illusions, beyond the world building, darkness, and the unknown is an allegory—a harsh yet beautiful lesson on what it means to be a man, a father, an
...more
Robert
May 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This novel reminded me of rowing a boat out to the middle of the lake, the water calm and clear and devoid of people and engines, the only sounds heard are the gentle rocking of the boat, the casting of the line as it whistles through the air, and the reel being unwound and wound. Instead of beer, there’s wine in the cooler, a sombrero on my head to block out the sun’s harsh rays, and a woman in a pantsuit to my left with her head back and sunglasses plastered on her face that make her look like ...more
Chihoe Ho
Apr 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Like it's title, this novel ran on and on and on and on and on... It started with so much promise, full of intrigue and despair, but the style in which it was written in got the better of it. This mythical story would probably have worked better as a novella.

Matt Bell is a talented writer, however, his words become very indulgent and tedious to read after the initial discovery. It felt like the same idea repeated, just churned out in various embellished ways - almost as though Bell wrote a coupl
...more
Michael Seidlinger
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Matt Bell's debut novel builds up layer after surreal layer, creating a narrative that functions like one hell of a literary cake. Make sure to go in hungry because, by the time you've finished, you will have taken in enough ghost-like imagery to stretch your imagination to full-capacity.

And yet... that isn't enough.
You'll hunger for more, a second and third reread of the novel.

In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods is, quite simply, beautiful.

Amber Sparks
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, dark, violent, heart-rending, and real. Fable and fairy tale, yes, and after the authentic traditions of the best of these - full of transfiguration, suffering, and deep and troubled love. One of the best books from last year, or any year.
Margaret
Back when watching a monster movie on a Sunday afternoon after the homework was done was an achievable luxury (so YEARS ago), I came across Prophecy, a gem from 1979. Here is some classy monster movie poster art:

A movie poster

So a scientist hired by the EPA goes out to the Androscoggin River in Maine to figure out if a paper mill or something is going to poison everyone with mercury. An astute viewer might be able to conclude, why yes. Instead of the usual, mutant bears attack!

ew, mutant bear

To top it off, the EPA scientis
...more
Watchingthewords
The latest installment from my Indiespensable subscription and I couldn’t wait to start!

A husband and wife move to the land between the lake and the woods to start their own life, across the lake from the city where they were raised. There they build their home and wish to build a family, but multiple failed pregnancies chips away at their hope, their marriage, and their sanity. That alone makes for an interesting concept for a book, but this one is wrapped in fable, a fairy tale, a fantasy worl
...more
Cynthia
Daddy Issues

“The House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods” is a lovely extended poem about marriage and its vicissitudes especially after children come along. It’s told in a mythical fashion from the husband’s point of view. A young couple is living in isolation very close to the land, hunting and fishing for their own food, living in a cave while they make their own house. The husband ardently wants children and the wife is having trouble carrying pregnancies to full term. They both b
...more
Elissa Washuta
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
I absolutely loved this book. At the sentence level, it's a stunner and I wanted to linger upon every one, so by the end, I felt as though I'd eaten a huge meal. There is a lush landscape of specific detail. The natural world is rendered as the seemingly-fantastical world that feels like an ancient ancestor of the one we live in, where the forces of nature seem sinister when they interfere with the will of humans. I haven't read a book like this one before; highly recommended.
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
In the house upon the dirt between the lake and the woods, a young wife, (who incidentally has the power to sing objects into existence), miscarries her first child. Her husband ingests the foetus, which is hell-bent on securing for itself both a body and a mother. Thus begins an all-out war between the elements of the couple's tiny private world: dirt, house, lake, woods, father, mother, ghost, moon(s), darkness. You can throw in fingerling (foetus), foundling (human/bar hybrid), rampaging-deca ...more
Dana
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
As I was reading this I felt profound jealousy at Bell's ability to write an entire novel woven, sentence by sentence, of pure poetry. This book has elevated the standard of what I previously perceived as "beautifully written".
The story itself could easily be a poem, it's figurative yet literal and visceral and bloody and undoubtedly haunting. It doesn't shy away from its gore. It doesn't attempt to mask the undertones of nausea running through it. It gives you a family in its rawest state, dis
...more
Mary Harju
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books of the summer--maybe even the year! It is truly epic, blending archetypes, mythology, and a dreamlike confrontation of excruciatingly personal dilemmas. A husband and wife come together and apart, making children, fighting against nature, and finally fighting with nature against each other. The theme of memory is continually present, being shaped and honed continually by the action taking place. Anyone who's been in a long-term relationship will come across painful flashes ...more
Molly
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Loved this. At first I was worried I wouldn't be able to get into it—Bell strips everything of proper name, all features of detail. We know little except that there are woods, and dirt, and lake, and house. The only granular information readers get is bodily: Bell does not skimp on anatomical information. Anyway, though it is fable-like in its very conscious simplicity, it is enough. A beautiful, terrible, sad, and gut-curdling book.
Clark Knowles
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
you can read a better formatted version of this at www.clarkknowles.com

I'm not a reviewer of books, merely a reader. I read carefully, of course, as someone who writes must read. But I've never been much of a reviewer. For the most part, I don't really read a lot of reviews either. I tend to find new books through recommendations and quite often, through acquaintances. That's how I found Matt Bell's new book In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods. I know Matt through Facebook
...more
Krista
Apr 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
That was the question I worried at, that I gnawed at like a bone, a cast-off rib too stubborn to share its marrow. And when at last that bone broke, what truth escaped its fracture, was by it remade: for even our bones had memories, and our memories bones.

In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods is a strange and twisted narrative; a lost Brothers Grimm from the pre-sanitised days of a medieval Black Forest; a time when it was perfectly reasonable to tell tucked-in children ab
...more
Jaime Boler
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: june-2013

Reading Matt Bell’s first novel In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, I often looked up from the book and blinked furiously in confusion. I expected to see a house with myriad rooms, a strange sky above me, a lake in the distance, and a wooded green. Instead, my own familiar environs surrounded me. That is just how powerful the setting is in Bell’s dreamlike, fabled, and beautiful debut. The story of a marriage and its collapse become much more as Bell infuses myth, allegor
...more
Chaitra
I came across this book on The Book Page, and since they called it mesmerizing, I had to request for a copy from NetGalley. I found I liked the title too, to the point. There's a lake and there are woods, and upon the dirt there's a house. A labyrinthine house full of memories, mostly sad - because the couple inhabiting them have not had a great marriage. They've struggled for a baby, and they have had several miscarriages. They grow incrementally disillusioned and cruel with each other until on ...more
Christy
Matt Bell's In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods is a dreamy and poetic story. The novel is not a quick read and I'm not entirely sure yet what I think of it, but it is frequently rewarding. It tells of the costs of marriage, of the ways relationships stunt and twist us, the ways our expectations of each other warp us. It tells of the desire for family and the pains this desire brings when thwarted and when fulfilled. It tells of the ways that our bodies betray us and the wa ...more
Kathy Cowie
I am torn about this book. In the beginning, I didn’t think I was going to get through it. The language seemed too calculated; trying so hard for greatness when interesting would have been enough. Once I got into it, I found much of it beautifully written, even lyrical. But there were inconsistencies that I hope, given it was a proof, will be corrected. Sometimes, though I did think it was beautifully written, it went dangerously close to being pretentious. I became engrossed in this mythical wo ...more
Valentina
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s hard to write a review for this kind of genre-bending book. It is such a detailed, nuanced novel, so wholly original, that it is tough to put into words what exactly makes it work. Because it does work.
I suppose it’s the writing. The lush, wandering narrative takes the reader on almost an underwater journey. Our senses are diffused by the fable-like story until we are just a little intoxicated by the descriptions. We never find out where it takes place, we don’t know the protagonists names,
...more
Dottie B
Sep 16, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Is this a Keanu Reeves movie? Lol! You know he played Johnny Utah in a little movie called Point Break. And graduated from a little university in that movie called... wait for it... THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY! (Go Buckeyes!) This book reminds me of how our Glorious Buckeyes lost to those cheating Hokies two weeks ago at VA Tech. You know Michael Vick went to VA Tech. And he fights dogs. Shame!

The guy who wrote this book should have been a lawyer or a doctor, or somebody successful. Something that
...more
Cat
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Upon reading the first few pages it was immediately clear that this book was somewhat out of my comfort zone. I don't know how to explain it other than it wasn't a book I would normally choose. And yet, The writing is hauntingly beautiful and compelling.

I started with the sample and couldn't help but think that it read like a short story - how was this going to carry through for an entire novel? Yet it did. The story keeps spinning and spinning around and each time I think there can't be more,
...more
Joe Kapitan
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was like being a passenger in someone else's epic dream. It has all the elements: symbolism, recurring themes, violence, tenderness, primal needs, death and creation, hope and hopelessness. Matt Bell creates a world that's off-kilter and the reader never feels on steady footing, but that's a good thing here. Bell's writing at the sentence level weaves spells and adds to the ethereal feel of his story.
Hayley DeRoche
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is a lucid dream, a long moan of grief swollen with waking dreams and horror and slick loss, coppery blood, a howling tumble through black salty waves. It is a bear's roar of pain and anger. It is a quiet seething. Good god read this, read it slowly, read it as it wanders through rooms and worlds.
Blue Cypress Books
Enjoyed the ride but have no idea what I just read. The novel is all about relationships, I think. There is the squid and the whale and the bear and the man and the wife and the child but it's all just so heavy with symbolic meaning that I need a therapist to explain it all to me.
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Matt Bell is the author of the novel IN THE HOUSE UPON THE DIRT BETWEEN THE LAKE AND THE WOODS, a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, a Michigan Notable Book, and an Indies Choice Adult Debut Book of the Year Honor Recipient, and the winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award. He is also the author of two previous books, HOW THEY WERE FOUND and CATACLYSM BABY, and his next novel, SCRAPPER, wi ...more
More about Matt Bell...

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