"No One's Home" Book Review

Written by Jeff Tolbert

Published by Thomas & Mercer

no ones home d m pulley large

Written by D.M. Pulley
2019, 397 pages, Fiction
Released on Septemeber 1st, 2019


D.M. Pulley’s No One’s Home is, at first blush, very much a classic ghost story. It revels in the tropes of Gothic literature: an atmosphere of eeriness and dread; a series of past traumas whose legacy extends into the present; and most of all, an obsession with all the minute details of place. And while all of these remain true, by the story’s end we’re left wondering about the extent to which the expectations of genre have misled us.

Myron and Margot Spielman have just purchased a rambling, dilapidated mansion outside Cleveland. The place is called Rawlingswood—an awkward name bestowed by its builders, the Rawlings family—and it bears, as houses do, all of the marks, physical and otherwise, of its many prior occupants. After extensive renovations—which aren’t enough to fully exorcise the influence of the past inhabitants—Margot and Myron move in, along with their teenaged son Hunter.

As is so often the case in such tales, we learn, in fits and starts, about the history of the place. The house has seen the comings and goings of many families (and many squatters and delinquents), and all of them have been visited by tragedy. Graffiti covers the walls when the Spielmans first see the place, including all the clichés: “Welcome to Hell House!” “Murder house!” and the requisite disjointed ramblings of the possibly insane. The narrative jumps around in time to detail the experiences of previous occupants, and slowly we learn its overarching story: built on the site of a Shaker settlement, an initial, unthinkable tragedy appears to have blighted the land on which Rawlingswood stands. In the present, the Spielmans have inherited all the tragic history of place, and ghostly events soon start to plague them.

Initially I was unimpressed by No One’s Home. It struck me as too formulaic and too slow. But as the pages turned, I grew increasingly interested, for reasons I couldn’t quite articulate. Now, after finishing it, I think I understand what was happening: I was starting to care about the place far more than the characters, who are annoying and petty—and this was undoubtedly Pulley’s goal. And although the pace is gruelingly slow, a key revelation in the second act justifies the obsession with the physical layout of Rawlingswood and the otherwise too-familiar devices of the genre.

No One’s Home is still a slow, slow story, and even with the aforementioned twist, it remains fairly predictable. It is not at all “scary,” although scariness is notoriously difficult to quantify. But despite my efforts to dislike it, it’s ultimately an interesting, satisfying read.


Overall: fourstars Cover
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Jeff Tolbert
Staff Reviewer
Jeff studies folklore for a living (no, really) and digs the supernatural. He loves a good haunting, and really strongly recommends that everyone stop what they're doing and go play Fatal Frame right now.
Other articles by this writer



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