The Upstairs House: A Novel (Hardcover)

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The Upstairs House: A Novel By Julia Fine Cover Image

The Upstairs House: A Novel (Hardcover)


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This was the bitterness that had rooted in me upon Clara's birth, the trauma that was only soothed by the expression of the anger. A bruise I had to keep pressing on, no matter the pain, because otherwise it would be gone, it would be swallowed, and without it, who would I be?

What is it to be a stranger in your own body? Your own home? Your own mind? Are we ever truly at home in these places? What if, like the main character of this novel, there is a ghost upstairs? This tale follows Megan Weiler as she spirals deeper into the life, death, and afterlife of children's author Margaret Wise Brown and her lover Michael Strange. By spiraling into their lives; however, Megan loses touch with her own. Not only is her body an unfamiliar host after giving birth, so are her thoughts and actions. This story writes of anger, fear, and legacy with all of their tenderness and unexpected twists. Through Megan's mind into Margaret's and Michael's, we are forced to ask ourselves about the places and people we call home and why it is that we find comfort there.

— From Rose's Picks

Winner of the Chicago Review of Books Fiction Award

A Good Morning America Book of the Month Selection • A Popsugar Must-Read Book of the Month • A Buzzfeed Most Anticipated Book of the Year • A The Millions Most Anticipated Book of the Year

“Provocative…. [An] assured, beautifully written book.” —Sarah Lyall, New York Times

In this provocative meditation on new motherhood—Shirley Jackson meets The Awakening—a postpartum woman’s psychological unraveling becomes intertwined with the ghostly appearance of children’s book writer Margaret Wise Brown. 

There’s a madwoman upstairs, and only Megan Weiler can see her.

Ravaged and sore from giving birth to her first child, Megan is mostly raising her newborn alone while her husband travels for work. Physically exhausted and mentally drained, she’s also wracked with guilt over her unfinished dissertation—a thesis on mid-century children’s literature.

Enter a new upstairs neighbor: the ghost of quixotic children’s book writer Margaret Wise Brown—author of the beloved classic Goodnight Moon—whose existence no one else will acknowledge. It seems Margaret has unfinished business with her former lover, the once-famous socialite and actress Michael Strange, and is determined to draw Megan into the fray. As Michael joins the haunting, Megan finds herself caught in the wake of a supernatural power struggle—and until she can find a way to quiet these spirits, she and her newborn daughter are in terrible danger.

Using Megan’s postpartum haunting as a powerful metaphor for a woman’s fraught relationship with her body and mind, Julia Fine once again delivers an imaginative and “barely restrained, careful musing on female desire, loneliness, and hereditary inheritances” (Washington Post). 

Julia Fine is the author of the critically acclaimed debut What Should Be Wild, which was short-listed for both the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel and the Chicago Review of Books Award for Fiction. She teaches writing in Chicago, Illinois where she lives with her husband and children.

Product Details ISBN: 9780062975829
ISBN-10: 006297582X
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2021
Pages: 304
Language: English

“In this gripping and stylistically impressive novel, Fine illustrates how the rational and the mythic, the tangible and intangible, intertwine to fully tell a woman’s story.” — Abby Manzella, Boston Globe

"Macabre and funny, spooky and soulful, Julia Fine's The Upstairs House lets the reader inhabit a massively entertaining and slyly enlightening story nestled inside another story like a ghost within its host. Love and resentment, madness and clarity compete and comingle in this unforgettable tale of literature and legacy." — Kathleen Rooney, author of Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey and Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

“Deliciously unnerving… The Upstairs House is a masterpiece of juggling multiple genres and themes…. Fine’s unapologetic presentation of female relationships and postpartum struggles makes The Upstairs House a novel you’ll think about for weeks after turning the last page.” — Sara Cutaia, Chicago Review of Books

"The Upstairs House is a haunting that truly haunts. Julia Fine’s writing is sharp, dark, and delightfully twisty. A totally absorbing, fiercely feminist read that keenly dissects not just a psychological break, but the identities of and impossibilities for the women at its heart. This is a book that lingers."  — Erika Swyler, author of The Book of Speculation and Light from Other Stars

“Like only truly good fiction can, Fine weaves the hilarity and horror, and in a truly original story she explores the ways that we lose ourselves in parenthood, academia, and unhealthy romantic relationships.” — Rachel Mans McKenny, Electric Lit

"By turns funny, eerie, suspenseful, and wild, Julia Fine's The Upstairs House took me completely out of myself. Probing the sore spots of new motherhood and the power of language, Fine's Russian-doll narrative lives in the narrow space between childhood dreams and grown-up nightmares. Like Rebecca Makkai and Lydia Millet, Julia Fine is, first and foremost, a unique and ultra-talented voice with something urgent to say. I'll be reading everything she writes from now on." — Amy Gentry, author of Good as Gone and Bad Habits

"The Upstairs House is an inventive, surreal, feminist examination of the postpartum experience. Is new mom Megan Weiler haunted by the ghosts of Margaret Wise Brown and her lover Michael Strange, or is she experiencing a deep postpartum depression? The Upstairs House reveals the isolating, world-changing, full-bodied experience that is new motherhood while unfurling a fascinating tale about one of our most beloved children’s book authors. I love Julia Fine’s brain and the radical stories she creates. Full of rage and resentment and deep love, The Upstairs House is a must-read." — Crystal Hana Kim, author of If You Leave Me

“In this inventive, visceral novel, Fine creates a dark fairy tale about a woman whose career plans are sidelined by pregnancy and the birth of her daughter.…  Fine depicts the devastation of postpartum depression, all too often shrouded in shame and blame, and offers hope.” — Booklist

"A little bit Shirley Jackson, Samantha Hunt, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, but also completely itself, The Upstairs House manages to turn the banal terrors of early motherhood, of womanhood, and daughterhood, and the ghosts that inevitably accompany them all, into a riveting page turner about trying to love in spite of the traumas that loving has wrought in the past."  — Lynn Steger Strong, author of Want

“Fine examines a new mother’s unraveling in her eerie sophomore outing…Fine keeps the high concept under control as the book hurtles toward a disturbing conclusion. This white-knuckle depiction of the essential scariness of new motherhood will captivate readers.” — Publishers Weekly

The Upstairs House is a terrifying jolt of a book. Here are all the openings-up of motherhood, and all the strains of its competing demands, taken brilliantly to their richest, most frightening extremes. I was riveted by every twist and turn of this story about the hauntedness of having a child.” — Clare Beams, author of The Illness Lesson and We Show What We Have Learned & Other Stories

“A smashing success [and] stupefying page-turner.” — Rumpus

“The novel’s lineage [traces] back to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, not least because of the way reading Fine’s novel [is] an embodied experience.” — Ploughshares

“Chills. I found this book about a haunting to be haunting — unsettling, nerve-racking, worrisome, strange. I fretted over the characters when I wasn’t reading it and ached for them when I was. Loved it so very much.” — Julia Phillips, author of Disappearing Earth