Sunday, October 20, 2013
Susan and Alex Wendt have found the most perfect apartment: in Brooklyn Heights, 1300 square feet, 2 bedroom, 2 bath, top two floors of a beautiful brownstone, and recently renovated. The price is crazy low and is totally worth having a weird landlady with a creepy handyman and an odd fixation with the basement. The couple moves in with their daughter and everything is fine at first. Then everything starts to crumble. First Susan finds out a kitten died in her apartment, leaving a horrible smell. Then the bites come. She's absolutely convinced they have bedbugs, despite the rest of her family being bite free and an exterminator examining the house and reporting no bedbugs. Her mental health deteriorates as she becomes obsessed with the bugs, researching ways to get rid of them, covering their house with dirt to deter them, itching, and becoming increasingly covered in bites. Are the bugs real or are they all in Susan's mind?
Bedbugs is a very fast read that packs a punch and goes places I didn't expect. Susan Wendt used to be a high powered lawyer, but gave it up to focus on her art. I didn't really like her for most of the book because she claimed to want to do art and then spent all of her time on errands, chores, and generally agonizing over unnecessary things. She is high strung and quick to freak out about random things, so I personally thought the bugs were going to be all in her head. She treats people she views as subservient to her pretty badly, especially the nanny, and that never reflects well on people. The financial problems put a strain on her relationship with Alex, a photographer who want to return to art photography, but has to support their family. By paying an unnecessary nanny an exorbitant amount plus pushing to move to a more expensive location, Susan doesn't help matters and is combative instead of supportive to her stressed husband. This all before the bedbugs even come to light, but establishes Susan as not a very sympathetic figure.
Then the bedbugs come in. Just reading about them made me paranoid and itchy. Yuck. They are gross creepy crawlies that I hope I never encounter. After she starts freaking out over bedbugs, Susan becomes marginally more sympathetic than before. She freaked out really early about them before she even saw signs, which was weird. Plus when she researched them and read something about badbugs (bedbugs from hell), she believed it! How gullible is she? The solution to get rid of the bugs according to the book is just psycho and she attempts it. After that point, I felt sympathetic towards her. I think she was insufferable through most of the novel and it would have been nice to feel for her a little before the ending. I kept reading because I was curious where the novel was going rather than caring what happened to Susan.
Bedbugs is a fun horror novel. I read it within a few hours and the momentum really builds well. Although I really disliked Susan, the story and side characters were interesting and kept me turning the pages. The ending has a bit of a twist and I never saw it coming.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins