Epeolatry Book Review: Were House by E. Rose Sabin
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Title: Were House
Author: E. Rose Sabin
Publisher: Arucadi Enterprises, LLC
Release date: September 15, 2015 (Reprinted 2021)
Synopsis: Jobless and evicted from her apartment, Charlotte Ramirez has nowhere to go. Being were compounds her problem. The animal spirit inside her is a jaguar, and it’s restless. When she passes a man on the street and recognizes, via her unique ability to “see” the animal within other weres, that he carries within him the spirit of a wolf, she turns to follow him only to see him brutally stabbed. Because she witnessed the stabbing, she is contacted by other weres and taken to the house of a clan of weres. Has she found the home she is looking for or only more trouble? To win a place in the clan she is told that she must accomplish daunting tasks: learn whether the stabbing victim is alive or dead, discover who stabbed him and why, and locate the stabber so that he or she can be brought to justice. Charlotte wants very much to become part of the were family, so she embarks on her assigned duties without careful planning and with no idea of the difficulties and dangers she will face. As she blunders through her initial attempts, she makes enemies of some of the were household, discovers and unwittingly endangers a young were who is not part of the household, and faces enemies who are determined to destroy the weres. Charlotte quickly learns what a high price she’ll have to pay for the privilege of making the Were House her home.
Before I get into the review, I’m compelled to reveal an absolutely horrifying experience that happened when I was reading this book. One that will strike real terror into the heart of every bibliophile. I got to page 39, when the unimaginable happened. A single page broke free of the spine and drifted to the floor. “It’ll be okay,” I told myself, “It’s not your fault—you always use bookmarks.” But page after page fell from the book in quiet recrimination. I tried to pick up the pages as gently as possible, but it was too late. They’d been crumpled, and the first casualty, poor page 39, even had a tiny tear on the edge of the page.
It was only after an extended mourning period over the book’s damage that I was able to summon the fortitude to complete my review.
Now that I’ve gotten all that tongue-in-cheekiness out of the way, onto the review! (But, yes, almost half the book’s pages came loose while reading Were House. I’m not sure what happened during the printing and binding process to cause all the book carnage, but the text on the page was also off center, and pushed more to the right than the left of the page.)
Anyhoo, I knew when I first met E. Rose Sabin at Necronomicon that I would really enjoy her books. Call it intuition or what have you, but when I acquired some of her works, my instincts proved to be spot on. (Fair warning—I’m now officially a fan of E. Rose Sabin, especially after reading Were House.)
Books, in general, are always a deeply personal experience for me, which proved no different in this case. Sabin’s Were House really resonated because of my own current situation.
I’m not technically homeless, but I am still in geographic transition, and while I wasn’t expecting my current location to be inclusive and welcoming, I do feel like I’ve been evicted, with nowhere to go. Like Were House’s main character, perhaps, I’ve been a restless wanderer most of my life. I was (and still am) seeking stability and a place to call home.
So, yeah, I breathlessly followed Charlotte Ramirez’s tumultuous journey from the start as she decides what pathway to choose.
Rose Sabin sets her story in Florida, which also makes Were House even more close to home, as I was born and raised there. I’m well familiar with the elements and situations described in her book, about places like Tampa, St. Pete, and Sarasota and their questionable approach to their residents without housing.
Even though this book was first published in 2015, Sabin’s setting still feels timely, with all the social upheaval still going on in the world. I think Were House’s appeal is universal, as a good many people have been impacted by inflation, rising housing costs, rising prices of food, and other factors. Factors that are causing epidemic levels of displacement—for people as well as for animals.
Were House, on the surface, could be considered as simply an entertaining genre read, but I think that does this novel a disservice. There’s depth beneath the surface, much like the spirit-like animals hiding within the were characters of Sabin’s work.
It’s a pleasure to read a work that feels very womyn-centric, without too much of a stereotype being upheld.
Again, it’s hard not to give away tons of spoilers, because I’m especially keen to share my full reader’s experience, but the twist towards the end of the book is a powerful and interesting commentary about something that styles itself as good, but has a darkness within that corrupts.
And, while this is a pretty big assumption to make on behalf of the whole world, I think we are yearning for something more. A stronger sense of peace, maybe, or a greater sense of connectedness. A home that’s more than a tiny microcosm of immediate family members.
A home that has space for all. Perhaps, then, like a few of the characters in Were House, we can discover our nonhuman animal counterparts, and come to terms with the hidden wild in us all, a wildness that has been forgotten in our quest for material goods.
Charlotte Ramirez reminds us that those material goods are just stuff, after all, when she easily walks away from what she defines as “scattered junk” (Were House, 7), in her search for a place more sustainable to her mind and her spirit. And her jaguar were, of course. Sabin has taken great strides to reimagine the were trope, which helps shift my former reluctance to read were-themed books, and I’m looking forward to reading her sequel to Were House, which is in the works at the time of this review.
As much as I enjoyed Were House, a couple of parts felt like they veered on expository, both in the narrative and in the dialogue. And my “wish list” for the sequel would be for the author to incorporate some gender fluidity into the were-fluid characters.
Overall, I’d recommend giving Were House the same chance I did. And, hopefully, you won’t have the same loose-pages-carnage I experienced in order to take part in the adventures of Charlotte Ramirez and the other weres.
After all, it’s really hard to flip pages to get to the exciting big reveal when they’re falling out all around you.
Kinda like everything in my own life. Oh, wait, that’s TMI, isn’t it?
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“Cat Whisperer” Kirsten Lee Barger has written articles on everything from cats to a piece about the “Di Wae Powa: They Came Back” homecoming event (Special thanks to Executive Director Karl Duncan and the Poeh Cultural Center: https://poehcenter.org/diwaepowa/.). In addition to befriending not only feral cats (as well as skunks and the occasional chipmunk or squirrel), she strives to support authors with everything from editing services to book coaching, and more. Find her on LinkedIn, here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kirsten-lee-barger-4a984a49/ or visit her at her website: https://kirsten-lee-barger.mailchimpsites.com/.