The Gray House, Week 6


Week 6 (pp. 368-445)
The House: Interlude
The Longest Night

Isn’t this picture magical?

amy basement

It is by our Amy, a friend I have known for many years but never met in person, one who is reading along with us all.

This week, more of the girls show up. My other images are of them.

I’m typing this on Monday. I’m not that much ahead anymore. I’ve only listened and read some of week 7. But this week is very loaded with new happenings, and it ends with a crescendo, The Longest Night, after which we have Book 3. By the time I started Book 3, I had to stop reading. The House is very changed now. I felt I needed to discuss week 6 with all of you before reading any more.

396c1861516b1dc48b445a64248c6482Drawing by this artist

  • The House. Interlude

Grasshopper is talking to Ancient. Ancient is 19, he is telling him that he’s going to leave the house. Grasshopper doesn’t understand why that, or where he is going, after he’s spent all his life in the House. Ancient admits to being afraid. He tells Grasshopper that he should learn from his graduation, to pay attention. That’s why they are all given two, another one, and their own. They talk about that amulet Ancient gave Grasshopper when he was little. Grasshopper doesn’t need it anymore.

This graduation, according to Ancient, is going to be worse than last, because the House is divided, it used to have one leader, but now it has two.

Grasshopper is with Wolf, they are on the roof of the House. Wolf asks him what he thinks about this place which Wolf loves (it’s the House but not the House at the same time.) Wolf asks him if he thinks that place is a good one to think, Grasshopper doesn’t know if it brings him good or bad thoughts. Grasshopper is afraid to share his thoughts, finally he tells Wolf he is thinking about the place where he used to live with his mom and grandmother. They have a beautiful exchange (page 372), where they talk about how fake it all looks from the roof, as if it’s just a picture, a picture you could punch a hole through. And they don’t know what’s truly behind it.

At the dorm, they are looking at a bunch of photographs of the Seniors when they were little. They were done in a place outside the House. Grasshopper skipped that first summer trip (remember, the trip when he stayed behind with Wolf, Blind, and Elk). The last trip wasn’t that great. It would have been, but at the resort they went to, it seemed as if the adults in charge did a lot for the disabled ones, and were overprotective, spoiling the fun. I commented last week that, after a while, the reader forgets about their disabilities. Yuri said that was one of the reasons why Mariam doesn’t want the book to become a movie. In a movie, we will see the disabilities first.

The seniors remember what they call the only 2 good places they even consider to be, in a sense, The House, that’s the summer place by the beach, and the ski resort. At the beach, they talk about their counselors forgetting about them and falling in love with the tanned girls at the place. The leaking roof, the evenings when it rained, all of them huddled in the main space, playing cards they even ‘stole’ from the grown ups.


This one by Dreamer Constant

Stinker is indignant. There’s at least 14 packages at the director’s office, they are his, and they have confiscated them claiming they don’t have a name to whom they belong. He starts a campaign to protest and get those packages.

Blind got those cassettes with Led Zeppelin for Grasshopper, but he cannot play them anywhere. Grasshopper suspects Skull gave them to him (since Blind is passing him Witch’s letters). And Blind tells him it may be of use to help Stinker get those packages, for he is sure one must be a tape recorder.

  • A Completely Different Corridor

Ginger is wondering why the girls corridors are different than the boys. She is talking about their old principal, who favored the girls, and had the rooms well equipped. Not anymore, they seem to be quite in ruins now, so much that they all take their mattresses out and sleep in the corridors.

In the girls’ wing we are introduced to Rat, who spends lots of time outside, who has been absent for two months, who brings things from outside, that’s why they also call her flyer. Mermaid and Rat ask Ginger (whom they call Gingie), how it was with the boys. She is reluctant to talk about it, but she has to, and tells them. We are also introduced to Catwoman, a woman who lives at the girls’ wing, who seems to demand their company, who is unable to leave her room, and who has lots of cats.

  • Walking with the Bird

Vulture is addressing his ‘nest’, the guys in his pack. It’s a dark beginning, this chapter, He describes them as living on carrion (everyone but him). He is encouraging his pack to invite girls, which is now allowed. They seem to be ‘off’ in their responses to this. Beauty, however, likes the girl named Doll. His crowd is not a very good looking crowd. I loved when he says, “A Boschian masterpiece. In the dar.” Bosh, whom we call El Bosco (though he wasn’t Spanish, -grin), is one of my favorite painters. At the time when he painted, Spain had a close relationship with the Nederlands, and I’m not sure how or why, we have the most of his paintings at the El Prado museum, in Madrid. To just see his Garden of Delights is worth the whole price of the admission to the museum. I just watched a documentary on Netflix about Bosch that was fascinating.

Now we are introduced to Shadow, his brother, who he sees, among other ghosts. Vulture sees Black and the salute each other, though they too don’t like each other.

Gaby is at the Crossroads sofa. Crossroads is capitalized. And who is this being with gills and four fingers, who sells Vulture a key? This pages (391 and 392), are full of references and information. He sees a Rat, ready, as he says of the ‘rats’, to ‘off himself’ anytime, anyplace. Himself or those around him.

And for those of you who love small things, and details, here’s to you,

Sphinx notices the freshly acquired nail-sized key and approves. It’s the little things that matter.

Sphinx leaves, having to sort the puddle that Rat left. They cover his wrists. (Why are the rats suicidal?)

Vulture has a conversation with Shuffle, who is also The Magician, and Crookshank in the Underworld. There’s a quick reference to the girls with their slim necks and their collars, and to chains. They are also the girls of the ‘pack’. Are the girls dogs in the Underside?

Vulture mentions how the House belongs to the wheelers, and he says his leg hurts and it’ll be a night of torture, however he talks about a strong stimulant at his disposition. And this last paragraph I’m going to quote, it’s to all of us, Carroll fans:

I take off the glasses and wait. I know that in another moment the White Rabbit is going to sneak by the end of the corridor, galloping at full speed, late for his Carrollian shindig. And there he goes. Flashing for a fraction of a second. You just have to know where to look, or you’d never catch him. I rest for a bit longer and then crawl forward again… Step, step… There goes Great Bird, the one feeding on carrion…

I did not know the word shindig, probably you all did, but it means this: a large, lively party, especially one celebrating something.

  • Tabaqui (Day the seventh)

Short chapter where Lary, who is in love with Needle, introduces her to the pack. The situation is tense, but Tabaqui manages to make a bit of conversation with this sweet girl Noble returns, he is looking very strange, but Tabaqui says that’s ‘normal’ these days with him. He makes coffee, and cuts it with cola, crushed almonds, cinnamon, and shakes out the contents of the basilisks eggshell amulet over the cup and gulps it without wincing. Sphinx asks him what happened, and he answers “I leaned too close to the fire”. “His grin is almost maniac.” we read. Tabaqui thinks is bad to dress up normal stuff in romantic nonsense, the type that annoys Smoker. Noble is in love. I believe we can all assume Ginger is the ‘fire’.  Sphinx thinks and tells Noble that is not a good idea to lean so close to the fire, that fire is a dangerous element. For sure, Smoker is annoyed, he says he is tired of them all.

  • Sorcery

This chapter was so poetic. Mermaid is working on some sorcery that will take her closer to Sphinx, whom she has decided to love even before he knows about it. I thought about her and her amulet, and how Sphinx was given an amulet by Ancient as well. She also tries not to look at the contents of the amulet, not to ruin its magic. Mermaid is a very sensitive girl, all her rituals in order to live, to survive, to give meaning to her life. Grasshopper also did some of the same with his ‘lookies’ games, etc.

I thought about Mermaid as one of those children who have nothing, and who invent their own games, who make up their own imaginary rules or quests, to maybe block that which is happening around, or to overcome severe obstacles of any kind.

Darling and Godmother, (adults in charge of the girls) questions Mermaid in this chapter. Darling is annoyed at them going to see the boys, actually, at Ginger and Rat. They consider Mermaid innocent, different to the others, and they are preaching to her and asking her not to go to the boys wing, not to have a boyfriend. Mermaid is repulsed by their hypocrisy, and the way they are talking about her and the other girls. Mermaid thinks the change in Needle (since she is with Lary), is a good one, and though she has not been to the boys, or wasn’t thinking about it, she rebels and says she plans to work some magic and make Sphinx (who doesn’t know anything about this), her lover. The two women are aghast. They say she picked poorly, -a guy without arms, bold, looking old.

Needle and Bubble ask Mermaid if she is happy. They both have this theory that if she is happy, she’s a happy charm herself. Mermaid answers that she doesn’t know. Bubble argues that she may still be a true happy person who doesn’t want to admit to it, or it can get jinxed, but she is not too convinced.

  • Basilisks

This chapter was brilliant. Rat talks to her PRIP (short for primary progenitor, her father). It’s an amazing conversation. From it, we learn that Rat has a tattoo of a rat they call Fleabag. Rat is a troubled girl, but by the way her father treats her, we no longer wonder why. Sheep is the grown up from the House in that meeting. She even tells Rat’s father that her daughter has a sensitive nature. PRIP was trying to convince her that Rat is possessed by demons, sigh. Rat shows a tough face though. When her PRIP is sermonizing about his other many children whom he has to take care of, and how this one is so bad, and has made him waste his time, she replies to him that he could have worn a condom. PRIP is angry, out of himself, Sheep is scandalized by her words. It’s obvious that Rat wants out of there.

Rat goes to the common area. It’s now a fact than boys and girls are mingling together, chatting, kissing, but Rat doesn’t get it. She doesn’t think there’s anything pleasurable in kissing. Elephant is scared of Rat. Rat wanders into Red’s floor, the second, and it’s dirty. Apparently rats are dirty. Red offers Rat some cheap liqueur, and they start a fascinating conversation. We can discuss it at leisure in the comments, but the problem is that Noble likes Ginger, Ginger ‘thinks’ she loves Blind, but Blind is not that type to correspond her love. He was glad to have Gaby, and if Ginger continues going to the boys’ dorm, she is going to make the mistake of offering herself to Blind, who’d most likely accept her advances just because. Ginger is Red’s sister. Red doesn’t want Blind for his sister, and he bluntly asks Rat to take Ginger place in insinuating herself to Blind. Rat cannot believe what Red is asking. She tells him how he could have lied, and told her how Blind is madly in love with her, and maybe she would have accepted that request. However, Red’s honesty is quite commendable, and somehow appreciated by Rat, who, before, was vulnerable when Red was asking about her father’s visit. I love how Red sees Rat as strong, and never thinks about showing pity. Rat, however, is not all that put together when it comes to her father’s relationship, but she seems stronger in terms of Red’s unusual request. It’s quite interesting to hear that Blind, according to Red, has shown some interest in her nonetheless. It’s a very loaded conversation between two interesting people.

  • Ghost

Noble has a vision of a ghost, Ginger. He also feels as if he is leaving his body and wandering about the House, until he is back to his body, and his bed, and feels his legs frozen, his torso hot. It looks as if Alexander was going to make a tea at that time in the night, but what he does is to prepare a hot bottle and place it under the blanket for Noble’s freezing legs. A strange cat that is not Mona sits on Noble’s lap.

  • Tabaqui (Day the eight)

Flyer (Rat the girl), comes from the Outsides with things, packages, and arranges them on the table. Lary snatches one that contains a record, Tabaqui gets chocolate, before Blind can get to things, Rat snatches cigarettes, coffee, and dark glasses of an especially ghastly persuasion (whatever that means), and they do all this before R One appears, when they remove the things from everything that smells of fun and can therefore upset the teachers.

The other scene in this chapter is when they are at their dorm looking at a painting and a map of New Zealand. It’s beautiful, how the drawing by Leopard is described. But the pictures make them a bit depressed. Even Blind is present at those viewings, he can feel the animals that Leopard drew, because he scored the outlines of them, and they have also described them to Blind. Tabaqui remarks that Smoker is not even asking questions, and says, “Could it be that he too is finally growing up?”

  • The Longest Night

So much to talk about this chapter. I have read and listened to it 4 times. I have memorized a sequence of the events in my head. It all starts by them speculating if today it’d be the Longest Night. Blind says yes, there may be even two Longest Nights (and nobody understands what he means by that.)

Smoker wants to get out. He does, but not without Tabaqui joining in. They find an abandoned wheelchair. Elephant is sleep walking. Blind is wandering about the House until he relaxes his back against a wall with people behind who are not sleeping. Red is frightened. He tries to find Ralph in his office and room, but he is not there. Tabaqui goes with Smoker to Vulture’s tent where he is playing cards with Dearest and Shuffle. Beauty and Doll are kissing on the stairs. Tubby is looking for that lithe and fair haired being, so pleasant to be next to. Butterfly is hiding in a stool at the teachers’ bathroom. He has diarrhea. Inside Vulture’s tent, Smoker asks for coffee but ends up drinking a strong and bitter drink that sets him into a trance. There’s now an independent paragraph on Crookshank, a river, and Elephant, another about a guy called Saara, a ghostly guy who is described as poisonous, reason why mosquitoes don’t even alight on him. A third independent paragraph about Dogheads. Talk about someone who is being called to the swamp, and who asks, ‘to go or not to go?’ Then, hunters. More ambiguous narrative about the Forest, Saara, Smoker becoming a cat, other cats who tell him, ‘jump’, ‘jump into the shadow’, and though the jump looks suicidal to Smoker, he does it. Smoker opens his eyes and tells the others he was a kitty.

Squib, Solomon, and Don try to kill Red with their razors, they cut him in the cheek, they cut also by the collarbone, and his hand that he had covering his neck. Butterfly was in the other stool, and Blind was in the stool that Red runs to in an attempt to lock himself from those three. When those three see there’s Blind and someone else, they flee. In their way out, they meet Ralph, but Ralph is holding Tubby in his arms, and he only sees Squib.

Tabaqui and Smoker leave Vulture’s tent. They all realize something has happened. They meet Ralph, they see him taking Red to the infirmary. He places Tubby on Smoker’s lap, but Tubby crawls away. They have to go to find Tubby. Ralph sees Vulture waiting for him on the hospital landing, and Vulture gives him a joint (I think this is what he was going to use for his legs pain.) Ralph goes to his office. There’s a surreal episode in which time seems to have stopped. Ralph dismisses any supernatural happening thinking it possible both the ticking clock on the wall and his own watch must have stopped working.

Ralph gets a paper slid under his door saying that Blind snuffed Pompey. Tabaqui is awaking everyone, informing them of what’s happened, while we find Blind being questioned by Ralph. This is another charged conversation, where much is said and much is also insinuated. Sphinx and Humpback are looking for Tubby when Noble shows up. Sphinx says something that is written in italics, ‘two more, Now there’s only Blind.’ What about Blind?, Sphinx says, no luck, Vulture admits. They finally find Blind, who tells them about his encounter with Ralph. Blind tells them about Ralph trying to figure out whos punking him (the watches and time not passing by issue.) There’s many mysteries around their conversation. They think it’s because Ralph asked Blind not to touch the three who attacked Red, but Blind says there’s more, like Ralph getting cut too (he has a cut in his cheek), and Ralph finding out about Pompey, plus Ralph maybe figuring out the composition of Blind’s vomit (undigested rats.) I don’t know, should we go back to some people feeding on ‘blood’?, or Blind strange feeding habits?

Here is when Sphinx tells Blind how come he doesn’t know he is bleeding until someone tells him? This made me think Blind has that disease where people cannot feel pain.

Last, in the conversation between Ralph and Blind, Blind seem to be in two places at once.

The floor is yours now.


Anuka Kolesova

56 thoughts on “The Gray House, Week 6

  1. The Rat-Red chapter (“Basilisks”) used to have an epigraph from Borges, “Lo que no cambia es la virtud mortífera de su mirada” (“But what remains constant is the deadly quality of its stare”), from the “Book of imaginary beings”. I don’t think it counts as a spoiler, because all the quotes are in the already covered part book, but this is another example of Mariam interweaving the real and the fantastic, carefully placing crumbs on a path, and allowing us to choose which side we prefer, because both are equally valid.
    First, we have Red always wearing his dark glasses; when he takes them off for Sphinx, it lasts “all of two seconds.” Then, when Rat looks at him directly, we are told that “she doesn’t do it to anyone for longer than three seconds”. And then we can remember Blind’s tale from the Fairy Tale Night, “They have mostly gone to seed, and their gaze is rarely lethal”.
    So, on the one hand, there’s a weird goth girl who obviously has problem talking to people, since she can’t even look them in the face, and a weird guy who likes to dress outrageously.
    And on the other hand, all of that weirdness is explained by the simple fact that they’re both basilisks. The “rarely lethal” kind.
    And of course, when the two of them are alone, they can look at each other without fear.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmm, how interesting. I had noticed that with their glances, and the not looking in the eye, and Red and his green shades, and lamenting not having them when he was attacked. But I missed Blind’s earlier comment.

      Another beautifully handled detail.

      The advantage in this case of the quote by Borges in Spanish, it’s that it says ‘su’ mirada, and su can be its, as you translate it, her or his, making it even more ambiguous… whose look?, it could be Red’s, Rat’s, or a creature, or them in the form of a creature.

      Those two were fascinating in this section.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Wow! That is wonderful! I didn’t catch any of that. I don’t think I even questioned why the chapter was titled Basilisks! Doh!

      Would love to talk about it more, but we’ve gotta get to piano lessons and some errands this morning, but I’m looking forward to the conversation that unfolds!

      (And, yay!, for Amy’s picture. I love it)!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, the word ‘basilisco’ reminds me to the common idiom, “estar hecho un basilisco”, or “ponerse como un basilisco”, we tell that to someone who has escalated in his anger, and who is showing it, like a ‘monster’ anger you unleash.


  3. I don’t know if I should put this here or not, since it’s not specifically about this section, but it is just a couple general impressions from the book. I wasn’t immediately captivated by this book the way you and Katie were, Silvia. But it has definitely grown on me.

    I am about half way through this novel. It is strange, to say the least. I wonder if the author purposely failed to describe much of the setting to continually surprise the reader at what type of place the house is. When I first started reading it, the house seemed much like an abandoned building with only a faint hint of a counselor on premises. Much later, I was surprised to discover that there were teachers and classes, because it seemed like the boys did nothing but plot and scheme and hang out in their rooms and eat their meals. And every now and then, there is another detail that comes as more of a surprise than it probably should, like the hotplate in their room where they can make themselves tea. Or the seemingly endless supply of materials available to them—at one point I wrote, “Where do they get this stuff?” It’s quite humorous, and so like boys to be able to make whatever they need/want out of whatever is available. And then there is a movie room and video arcade—surprise! And forty minute parental visits—surprise! (I find this curious, but I am quite stuck on what kind of parents leave their children at this house—obviously the kind who, if they visit at all, are satisfied with a 40 minute limit).

    And then the girls! What are girls doing in the house? At first I didn’t like that they were there at all, but I as I gradually get to know them, I am becoming attached to them, too.

    What I am enjoying most about this book so far is the tenderness the boys exhibit to one another. Despite the strange elements of the book, the boys are so real—tough guy exterior, ready to fight at the drop of a hat (where did that expression come from?), but so quick to come to the aid and defense of anyone in trouble, and truly sweet and tender on the inside. I really love that.

    I also love—and am continually surprised—by how literate these boys are. They seem to be left mostly on their own, yet they’ve obviously read some great books. The literary allusions are a fun part of this book.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your honest comment. It’s surely a book that grows on you. I’m also touched by how much these boys (and it seems the girls share that too) love each other.

      I too had similar thoughts in the beginning. I also wondered where the grown ups were in this house. I remember that the first, the Pheasants, lived a more orderly life. They had their meals, their sleep times, while other sections, like the fourth where Smoker ends up being assigned by Shark, has complete freedom to do whatever they want, or go to sections of the house that are to themselves, and they also have a seemingly endless supply of whichever they want. But then there’s a chapter when we are told that the girl Rat, and Tabaqui and those 14 packages, receive things from the outside, and maybe ‘smuggle’ them (such as cigarettes, records, chocolates, etc.) In this week section, Red offers Rat a liquor also distilled by some in the house.

      Also, the way Shark accepted Alexander, we can conclude that this is a mix of children with disabilities, and maybe orphans (that was Mother Ann’s initial founding of the House), with unwanted and problematic children who are dumped in the house, and who are accepted in exchange for a generous monetary contribution.

      The house also has gone through changes, and I believe it’s experiencing some decay in some areas, like the girls corridor. Ginger comments on how the girls were favored by a previous principal, and how that principal furnished their rooms with TV’s, carpets, etc., but now they are worn out, and the girls are sleeping in the hallways. The classrooms, however, they must keep them clean, or they risk not having lessons.

      Ralph also speaks about the transformation of the House, from a place with windows, to a place with bars (since the residents kept breaking them, or covering them). We can also see that Ginger, when she was little, could climb and get into Grasshopper’s room, while now, as seniors, the room is barred.

      To me the place evolved, (or devolved), from a small home for orphans and disabled children, into an out of control place, a bit of a ‘jungle’.

      About the children’s literacy, I was also surprised how many of them have taken to music (playing and listening to it), singing, reading, crafts… the girls as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Sherry, your description of how the setting unfolds is much the same as I experienced it. I have so many notes in my margins from early on questioning whether there are adults beside the few we encounter, whether the kids actually go to class, whether there are girls in this house, etc. I really enjoyed how slowly the place took shape. And I think that the first book purposely led us to ask those types of questions because it is more fantastical and mysterious than the one that follows it. We get a fuller picture of life at the house in book two as we are see through the eyes of more narrators, including an adult. I haven’t started the third book, and I have been wondering whether the tone will shift again, or what it will be like. Silvia, I understand your feelings of needing to wait before you dig into the third book. I’m dealing with that too – taking in so much information and needing time to let it settle.

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      1. That was Monday! I dipped my toes in book three a bit, and whoa, it’s another Mariam’s twist and turn. The book grows with them, it’s a “jump” (pun intended), from book two, and gone is the innocence I felt in book one.

        But I feel compelled to continue, and there’s a new tenderness and typical of Mariam, new twists, and clues that help us look back and understand more of all we have been through with these people at the House, and the House itself.


    3. I was shocked in the chapter when Ralph returns where he leaves because the boys are about to start class. I remember thinking confusedly, “They go to class?! Oh, yeah, I guess they would.”

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  4. What a post! I’m sorry to say my schedule got so full the last month that I didn’t make it past the first 90 pages or so, and now my copy is sitting in a box many miles distant from me. But just glancing through this post, there is much more going on than I suspected!

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  5. I don’t even know where to start this week. I feel pulled in various directions and I’m not sure where I want to focus my attention first. I suppose since the Basilisks chapter has already been brought up, that might be a decent spot.

    Rat’s mirrors. Beyond the basilisk connection, I find it interesting that she chooses to view the world through a collection of tiny mirrors. What does this say about her and how does it alter how she perceives her world?

    “She’s been seeing him in small fragments for so long now, she can’t even imagine him in any way other than a series of reflections. She can’t perceive him as a whole. Not that she’d wish to.” (405) This reminded me of Grasshopper’s lament when he saw the residents up close after seeing from a distance. They were pieced together – glued together. PRIP is also pieced together, in a sense, but it’s, I don’t know – an inverse, I guess. He is a “whole” man in the physical sense, as far as we can tell, but his daughter deconstructs him with her mirrors. These badges are her defense Are these badges her power? I think they make her feel powerful, or at least provide some sense of safety, with her father. In the mirrors, she can crush him, if she chooses: “Rat takes the largest badge and catches in it raging PRIP’s reflection. Now his shiny red visage fits neatly between her thumb and forefinger.” Just one movement of her fingers and – smoosh. She is reducing him; he is the size of a bug from her perspective. She’s reducing him because – it’s only too obvious through this scene – it’s all that he’s ever done to her. He is such a nasty fellow. Similar to Alexander’s grandpa, PRIP has a clean façade that houses a dirty soul – a soul that manifests itself to innocent children. From this single encounter, it seems that PRIP doesn’t mind showing his bad side, at least to people like Sheep, but later, we learn from Rat that he is a successful writer of animal stories. As an author of wholesome, heartwarming stories (some of which are even made into movies – in which no animals are harmed during production, lol), I’m sure his public persona is pretty clean. We see him as he is through Rat’s eyes – not even her eyes, just her mirrors – and I believe we see the truth.

    Like Sphinx, Rat has a compelling connection with mirrors. Sphinx uses mirrors contemplatively – privately. He learns lessons gazing into mirrors. For Sphinx, mirrors aren’t always truthful. He once told Smoker, “He is you seen through the lens of your image of yourself. We all look worse in the mirror than we actually are.” The mirror is a mocker. Sphinx recognizes that mirrors cause false perceptions, but it seems like he wants to penetrate the lie and get down to truths that lie beyond. Rat, on the other hand, uses mirrors to navigate her external life. Her mirrors allow her to see what she wants to see. She is looking at an upside down reflection of reality. I don’t think any of us would say that this is healthy, and yet, they are her coping mechanism, a crutch that seems necessary in light of the kind of life she lives. I can’t decide to what extent she sees the truth through her mirrors. Mirrors are a mixed bag in this book, and I’m still untangling how to think about them.

    I really wanted to talk about the conversation with Rat and Red – it was delightful reading – but this already took me too long, so I better get some thinks done around here. Maybe I can get to some of those thoughts later today!

    Why does PRIP adore visiting Rat? Is she being facetious? Does he like to play the martyr? Does he hate her so much that he delights in inflicting her with his presence week in and week out?

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    1. I like your use of the term “coping mechanism,” Katie. I think all of these children (isn’t it a bit odd to call them children? They are children, but their lives don’t allow them to really be children) at remarkably adept at creating their own coping mechanisms. I think this is one way the beauty of the human spirit shines through in this book.

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    2. Your comments are simply enchanting, they enhance my experience of the book.

      Mariam proposes, we response. When Mariam throws that seemingly inocous commen, “Rat’s PRIP loves his visit”, we are thrown into a world of possibilities. She gives us tangible information, as it’s the case with Alexander, yet she doesn’t close her narrative to one possibility. We still have to think. That’s why I love the book, one of the things why I love it. I appreciate the thinking it asks me to do.

      My take on this is that he enjoys unleashing his dark side. I find it hard to believe that a father, intelligent and able to show feelings, has no part in whatever made Rat be this troubled. On the other hand, just as I type this, I think of a family we knew, who owned a coffee place, with a boy and a girl, in a not so good neighborhood, and the boy used to hang out with bad company, and he turned bad and eventually died from drugs.
      But Rat shows a vulnerable side and looks as she is trying to cope and live with just herself, no help.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I agree with you both – that painful beauty.

        I was just thinking that another reason Rat only sees her father in small fragments is the fact that 40 minutes a week is a very small fragment of a life. She purposefully views him through the fragments and reflections of her mirrors, but by putting her in the House, he is the one who has truly chosen that for her. He has left her and when he chooses to show himself it is only in ugly ways – disapproving of her, humiliating her, hating her. I echo Sherry’s question: what kind of parent leaves their child in a place where they only have access to them for 40 minutes a week. Obviously, we get a lovely portrait with PRIP!

        I think you are exactly right, SIlvia, about wanting to unleash his dark side. That’s really good. He can come to this place for 40 minutes a week to unload all his base emotions and then go back into the world feeling relieved of that rage. I’ve refrained from mentioning Christ figures up to this point, though I thought about it in relation to Alexander. I wouldn’t call Rat a Christ figure at this point. Yet she does take on his sin – he heaps it all on her, though she is not a willing recipient. It’s a stretch, but he’s such a bad man, and what you said, Silvia, gets me speculating that what he does is a twisted version of going to church or to confession: he goes weekly to this physical building where he releases all of his sin onto an “innocent” and he can walk out of that building and go back into his life feeling lighter, until the ritual needs to be repeated.

        I also agree that HE is the problem, not Rat. How could she live with a man who treats her this way and not develop problems. It is possible, as you say, that she could have run into bad influences outside the home, and that he only became this way toward her because he disapproves of her bad choices, but – I don’t know – he didn’t become a bad person because of her. He is a bad person, and he chooses to abuse her. He is presumably a good father to his other five children – well, according to him, anyway – but I don’t think it would be off base to say that she has been a target for him all her life. Maybe she’s always been different and he loathes her for it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Or—I think more likely—he’s lying when he says that he’s a good father to the other children. He probably put Rat in the House because she is the one who fights back. The simple act of only looking at him through her mirrors is a defense mechanism, but it’s also an act of defiance — she refuses to see the image he wears for the rest of the world and insists on breaking him into pieces with her mirrors. I like her for it. Part of me aches for her, and part of me cheers for her when she spits in people’s faces.

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      3. Yes, I think she’s the only one who refuses to see him as he is to the ‘public’, like Alexander, who told us how the world didn’t see the monster that his grandpa really was!

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      4. I absolutely love how you say that about Rat’s mirrors being an act of defiance against her father – a refusal to be party to his phony presentation. And, yeah, I agree. He can’t be a good father to any of his children, not if he is capable of treating one of them the way he does. Rat’s the black sheep and the other have learned how to fit in and be agreeable. She’s not willing to play the game to win his approval.


  6. Katie, that was a great commentary, how Rat’s PRIP visits are like confessions. Here there’s another person in the House with a distorted view of the world, like Gaby with the holes, Rat with the patches or fragments reflected in her badges. Her father must have done something, or allowed something, or be something to her that pushed her to that rebellious act, to that problematic or antisocial behavior, that, in turn, resulted in her joining the House. Sheep says that Rat has a sensible nature, yet looking at her, you’d think she has a violent nature. By her conversation with Red, we know she is hurt.

    I guess his other children may have learned to play the family game, and be more compliant in their look and behavior, staying away from their father’s target. Do you all remember that ‘crazy’ chef I told you about before, -grin, because he was either dyslexic, or something different, in a home of very successful by worldly standards people, he found himself as an outcast, somehow rebellious and not well adjusted at all. Life in the ‘normal’ world (school, family, sports, whatever), was nothing but a field for failure, and he started to feel the heat of being different. To me, it wasn’t the success that eventually he obtained as a chef, it was his emotional life that made me feel good for him. He loved his first wife, and the son they had. When she died, he cried and mourned, and went through that with his son. Years after, he met another woman, a mom with a child a bit older than his son, and no husband, and they both married. That emotional stability was something he fought hard to have, it did not come to him easy. That was a triumph of love over obstacles and a life of not fitting in that lead so many others to drugs, alcohol, suicide, etc.

    I’m starting to worry about these children. Will they end up OK? I have a feeling they won’t cope outside the House, or even in the House. I can see how the book is, in one of its many ways, a cautionary tale to us, grown ups.

    I have to brag about your comment on mirrors once more, Katie. Mirrors are such a fascinating element of this book.

    Yes, there’s so much in this chapter, we haven’t even started to comment on Blind and Ralph’s conversation. Am I the only one who perceives an ambiguity in the use of the word crack? Am I still hang up on the ‘drug’ problem in the House? Now I don’t deny a supernatural undercurrent, but my mind keeps veering towards mixing this supernatural with a realistic explanation. I think Blind was stunned at Ralph’s office. He will say later how the silence there was a ‘stunned’ silence. And Sphinx asks how is a ‘stunned’ silence different, and Blind says, (I forgot how he put it), something like, it’s a darker or stuffier silence.

    Blind also speaks about the Forest in the middle, those were his undergoing thoughts. He fears it’s too much (maybe he mixed up substances?) So far there can be Moon River, or Flower, or whatever they mention in the Bird’s chapter with Vulture, and is there something else?


    1. I don’t think the drug idea is weird. Earlier on, I thought the names of their concoctions sounded like acid. And the description of how you never knew what effect it would have on you, and how every time is different. And Smoker’s becoming a cat sure sounded like an acid trip.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t think it’s weird either. They definitely ingest homemade mixtures. I still gravitate to a more supernatural reading of things, but drugs could certainly be playing a part in their altered states. Smoker had a strange experience after ingesting that drink. Noble too. It can’t be all that is going on though. Some, like Blind, seem to jump of their own free will. Maybe Silvia has suggested this in the past – she has theorized about jumpers and striders – maybe jumpers get there through drugs, but striders have other means? During the Longest Night, Butterfly was doing heroin or some kind of drug in the bathroom. He was heating something on a spoon. He is listed as a jumper – so is Noble, and we know he jumped after Moon River. Vulture is a jumper and we’ve seen him more than once with strange substances. I’m not sure about this theory, but I’m going to keep it in mind as I read on.


      2. The locus of the spread of the “concoctions” in the House is Vulture, and we’ll find out why closer to the end.
        And as far as I was able to research, the “pixelated world” experiences are characteristic to ingesting MDMA and related substances.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Yes, Rat is labeled sensitive. I don’t have personal knowledge of goth culture, so maybe this is a stereotype, but it seems to me that goths are often highly sensitive people with romantic sensibilities. Their outward appearance and attitudes may be intimidating, but perhaps this is in part a protection. Or maybe I’m talking mostly nonsense! But Rat for sure has been wounded and damaged by life. It’s sad.

      Anyway….I did start reading the next book, and as I get more information, Rat is definitely freaky. But still sensitive?

      Mermaid is also highly sensitive but in a soft, dreamy, almost other-worldly way.

      Ginger is not. And I don’t know enough about Catwoman. She just seems like an annoying, self-pitying roommate, but I’m probably being unfair since I don’t know her story.

      The story about the chef is such a lovely one. What makes one person resilient and able to overcome that burden of being different and find emotional stability, and what makes another person seek wholeness in destructive things? We’ve heard that there are quite a few suicides in the House. We certainly see a lot of resilience among many of the main characters. Have any of them achieved significant stability amidst their circumstances – actualization? Or are they all just coping the best they can….

      I need to go back and read the Ralph/Blind scene you are referencing before I comment. I was reading the “crack” in a supernatural way, but I want to try to look at it differently. Goodness, I so want to talk about Red/Rat and everything having to do with the longest night. I hope I can find more time this weekend! Silvia, I am impressed that you have memorized the sequence of events of that night! Yesterday, I devoured the very long chapter that kicks off part three. Now I need to stop and review what we are discussing this week. I hope some of you will start throwing out your thoughts about the LN. I don’t have time to write about it now, but I’d love to read the thoughts and ideas of others! 🙂


  7. Rat’s mirrors reminded me of Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott:”

    Out flew the web and floated wide-
    The mirror crack’d from side to side;
    “The curse is come upon me,” cried
    The Lady of Shalott.

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    1. Ooh, Sherry, that is a great connection!

      And I love that poem…..

      And the Waterhouse painting.

      And the Loreena McKennitt song.

      Maybe I’m trying to force the allusion, but once I start thinking about it…..the House does have some similarities to her island, doesn’t it. She’s imprisoned there. There are supernatural elements to the poem. Many residents of the House see leaving for the outsides as a death sentence. And the mirror – she only sees the real world through a reflection, shadows.

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      1. That song, The Lady of Shalott, is amazing.

        Now that it’s been brought up, I too see the connection.

        I will keep that jumper/strider possibility in mind too. I also don’t feel it can all be reduced to drugs at all. There’s an alternate reality that some see and some don’t. How do they access it, for some, it may be through the aid of substances, but there’s more to it.

        Almost finished with week 7, I find answers and confirmation to something I thought about but wasn’t sure. Yes, it has to do with Elk, and as we suspected, with the different types of children in the House. We will be given a generous amount of new information, and there will be lots more to speculate, investigate, and deduct.

        But before I read week 7. Do you think that Tabaqui has Asperger?, he is so exuberant, and the way Sphinx says that for him everything is always fascinating, and he is also so theatrical.

        Do you think Blind is not able to feel pain?

        What did you make out of Ralph freaky experience of time when it seemed to stop?

        Who is the creature that Tubby was trying to reach?

        Why does Ginger love or think she loves Blind?


  8. Yes, stepping into the next book – it was surprising how much information was handed to us! I don’t think I’m as far as you – I know some things about Elk, but maybe not what you are alluding to.

    Tabaqui – hmmm….I don’t know. The couple children I have known with Asperger’s were not like that at all, so it doesn’t fit for me, but my experience is limited. I love his zest and flamboyance.

    Blind – I was thinking that he can’t feel pain after Sphinx commented on his feet bleeding, but then in week 7, when he has scratches on his chest, Sphinx at one point suggests that it hurts when the ring grazes his chest. Blind is getting weirder and weirder. I’ve never been comfortable with him and I’m starting to feel uneasy. The chapter I read yesterday has me wondering some things – things that I can’t clearly articulate or don’t know if I believe – but I will save that for next week.

    I think time really did stop! I have no other explanation. The House is doing something. I mean, maybe there is another explanation, but I prefer this one! I’d love to hear other theories, though. I’m open.

    I think Tubby was trying to get to Ginger. At one point we hear how he was fascinated with her hair and she would let him touch it. I think that’s right. I’m not 100% sure that’s who he was trying to get to, but I think so.

    And that is a huge question for me too: why does Ginger love Blind??

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There’s one boy I know with Asperger, and he talked for two hours to his friends about a video game set in WWII period, he is flamboyant as Tabaqui, and as Tabaqui, he is oblivious though, to the serious nature of some things, he finds everything a game, and he reminds me a lot of Tabaqui. But I see others like Tabaqui and they are not Asperger. My Asperger thought wad because Sphinx says that Tabaqui doesn’t seem to be bothered by the tragic events of the LN, and remember when he said, Pompey is an idiot, he has to die… he augments and distorts reality. In a word, he lacks social clues, but who does not in the House?

      Tubby was looking for Ginger, yes, he is fascinated with her hair.

      I think you are right about Goth, now there’s also a new term for a similar group of kids, Emu, they are sensitive, and sometimes anorexia and bulimia are in the mix of problems (for everyone, but specially in the goth/Emu looks)

      It’s strange to hear Blind feeling something. I myself am not just sold on explaining everything through the drugs, but now I remember a friend who took acid for a season, and who quit because when she took it she could not feel pain, and once she got home and her feet were all covered in blood. She had danced all night long and her new boots had destroyed her feet. She quit because she couldn’t remember what bus took her home, and she heard of a guy who went psycho (maybe he already had mental problems.)

      She never took acid anymore, but, like Oliver Sacks relates to us in his books, she had the most wonderful hallucinations, and she loved that, until she saw the danger and decided to stop.

      The info on Elk is coming, it’s in the last long ch of week 7.

      Later today I will try to comment on the LN


      1. We were supposed to be at a birthday party today, but my youngest woke up sick, so I’m keeping him company on the couch this afternoon while the rest of the family is out. How much thinking and typing can I get done here? 😁

        It certainly could be Asperger’s with Tabaqui. He definitely misses social cues, as you mentioned. And his love for collecting stuff and wearing layers of clothes and stuffing his pockets full of things. Different, to be sure.

        I have heard of emo, but at this point in my life, I don’t know a lot about subcultures. Maybe emo is a more relevant label for Rat. There are apparently stereotypes of emo people as self-harming, depressed, and angst-ridden. I also found this interesting: “Russian legislators are trying to pass a law that would allow heavy regulation of websites devoted to emo music and culture, and make wearing emo or goth-style clothing in schools and government buildings illegal in the Eastern Europe country. The idea was conceived last month at a hearing in Russia on “Government Strategy in the Sphere of Spiritual and Ethical Education.”( This was from 2008 which would have been shortly before the book was published.

        That’s really interesting about your friend’s experience with acid. It could be that Blind does acid and therefore is sometimes numb to pain. I won’t give a spoiler for next week, but maybe that’s why, in the moment, he was okay with receiving all those scratches. It is an interesting puzzle.

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  9. So, Red and Rat: I loved their encounter, and I sense a lot going on under the surface, but I don’t know what to say about it! I guess I will start with a couple excerpts that I found beautiful and intriguing…

    “He fidgets, smiling at something only he understands, then slides the green shades up and morphs into a fairy-tale creature from another world. A very somber creature. One could use his eyes like a mirror, drown in them, stay there forever, stuck faster than a fly to a trap masquerading as a table. A reflection in them is always more beautiful than in an ordinary mirror. It’s hard to look away from it.” (410) – More mirrors. When I have time, I want to explore this whole mirror thing further! – Someday.

    What does Red smile at? His smile directly precedes revealing his eyes. Does he smile when he thinks about raising his glasses? His eyes have the power to cast a spell, to seduce. Was he attempting to enchant her so that she would be more receptive to his coming request about Ginger? Is he in love with her? I want to know more about their history. Why does he turn her mirrors backward? He wants her to look him in the eye? When he touches the mirrors, she says, “I don’t let anyone do that. Those are my eyes.” And then a line later, “And your lie,” she added angrily. “They show an improved version.” I’m unsure about her statement. Does she mean that her mirrors lie about Red, or does she mean that Red’s eyes lie about her – show her more beautiful than she is?

    And then there is this on the next page: “She wants to snap back, say something that would turn him off her forever. Make him regret his attempts at meddling in her soul and his cloying word of consolation. Make him stop showing her unreal reflections. But she can’t bring herself to reject them. She does need them, at least occasionally, at least on days like this one. And Red is perfectly aware of that. She remembers herself in the chocolate pools that are his eyes. So beautiful.”

    Is his meddling with her soul of a manipulative nature or does he care for her? She keeps her distance from all intimacy, therefore she labels his interactions with her as meddling because she has to resist him? Does he show his eyes to give her a self esteem boost – he wants to remind her that she’s not what PRIP thinks of her? Is that why she says she sometimes needs the reflections even if they are unreal?

    If he does love her (and maybe he doesn’t), why would he ask her to step in on behalf of Ginger? I get that he loves Ginger like a sister, so there is a sense of protective responsibility there, but the fact that he asks Rat – I don’t know – it’s a very business-like transaction. He doesn’t place any emotion on it. He just sees it as something that needs to be taken care of and Gaby failed. Why does Rat get angry with Red when he asks if Noble is into Ginger?

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    1. I did not know all that about emo. I only picked up a bit from the girls who tell me it’s what you described (depressed kids, black emaciated look, self destructive, etc.), and it sounds like what we, older people, know as goth.

      Red and Rat’s exchange. I now want to know the answers to all those questions! My take is that both of them have put on a different facade than their real self. Probably they don’t even know who they are. They are an important part in their respective ‘packs’, they seem to be ‘mediators’, or ‘enablers’, but I’m not sure what they are trying to avoid, or trying to preserve. Ginger is vulnerable. Red doesn’t want her next to Blind. Rat is stronger in relation to the house people, at least to those who don’t know her. I think Red knows her at a level others don’t. I now am not sure if Red loves Rat, or if it’s the other way around. Rat resists looking at Red’s eyes, but she also seems to enjoy the way he talks to her, and I even think she tries to tell him she’s a bit hurt by the way he didn’t come to her appealing to her ‘feminine side’, but, what’s Red to know, when she annihilates those responses with her whole persona. I think Red knows her and at the same time doesn’t know her.

      This is coming with some advantage, but I fear these ‘children’ are so void of love. There’s attempts of caring for each other, of showing love somehow, but it’s not working well at all. And maybe that’s because of the mix of people they are (orphans, mentally unstable, different disabilities, physical and mental, and, as we are becoming aware of, lots of things in this mix, substances of different types, maybe some aimed at their pain, or at their mental problems, and maybe others just plain drugs that had made it into a world of despair).

      And this takes me to the LN. I believe the LN is a night when they lock the young ones, and where the House (or some levels of it), goes through a strange mayhem where they are left to their own devices (whether to get drunk, or stoned, and to get into fights, or attempts to kill or suicide, etc.) I think it’s a night when the grown ups disappear. (Red tried to look for Ralph, but he was at the Sheriff’s party? -what’s that supposed to mean? Why does this counselor go to the Sheriff? The sheriff who showed up after Pompey’s death and left without much ‘investigation’, (or with investigation we are not aware of).

      Think about this. If some of these children, teens now, are orphans, who cares if they are killed by another orphan?

      There’s a ritual, or a readjustment of leadership, or maybe just a night when they have a code for complete anarchy and debauchery. But remember that Smoker, a former Pheasant, had no idea of all this. Again, it’s with some advantage that my attention is now pointing to different sections of the House. There’s different ‘worlds’, and I don’t mean the natural and supernatural, those are there, yes, but I am talking about different types of safety and treatment to the members of the House.


      1. I love how differently you often think from me. It opens up new avenues that I hadn’t seen before – this is very true with what you said about the longest night. Isn’t it interesting that we never hear about the juniors in the current timeline. Presumably there are still young children in the House, but we only get a view of the teenagers. It is true, what you say about who cares if an orphan dies. For some of these residents, if they were to turn up dead, their parents would sue the place; but if one was there because of the charity of the house (and while it was originally a home for orphans, I don’t know for sure that they still would take children in in that way), then if something were to happen to them, well…like you said, who cares.

        So, the LN happens once a year. Is that right? What prompted Smoker to want to go out that night? Does Vulture set up a tent every night, or was this a special occurrence?

        To clarify, the Sheriff that is mentioned is one of the counselors, and not law enforcement. He was mentioned in passing when Ralph returned. But the fact is, all of the counselors live on their own floor, except Ralph, right? So the residents are left to themselves unless Ralph is there.

        I didn’t know much about emo either. I googled it. They are similar to goth, but apparently there are distinctions. You know, can’t be mislabeling people.

        I like what you say about both Red and Rat wearing facades. (I have been half aware of how similar there names are, but I’ve never actively acknowledged it until now. Might not mean anything…..) We know that the leaders are supposed to appear a certain way. How many people in this house are authentic and how many are putting on a show – acting a part? I’m really not sure how they feel about each other, but I agree that Red sees her more clearly than most people – but he also doesn’t know how to navigate her rough exterior. Like you said, she wants him to appeal to her feminine side, but she makes that really difficult. And I don’t know how she feels about him, really. It seems hard for her to resist him, but is that because of her natural feelings or is it because he casts some sort of spell? Sphinx has a similar, but more subtle experience a few chapters back.

        Sigh. I have to go make supper, so I will have to come back later to talk about some of the other things you said.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I too enjoy so much the fact that neither you, Katie, nor Sherry, think as I do. I believe we all bring our peculiar reasoning and thought processes to the book. I’m not sure the LN happens only once a year. Why do some feel it coming? it’s something I don’t know. It has to do with time stopping too. Jumps can be jumps in time?, place?, sliders are those who provoke them? Once more, Mariam plays this (at least at this point in the book), as ambiguous (are they all hallucinating together?, or do they really stop time and live in an alternate world?)

        Thanks for clarifying that with Sheriff. I listened to that part and I forgot that he is a counselor, and that Ralph is the only one in the second floor. (He must have been one of them?) Whatever this jumping in time means, I remember Shark and Ralph’s conversation, and the months being years, etc.

        Red’s eyes cast a spell, I like that. Basilisks, so they can kill you when they look at you? Remember also when we read that those in the 4th?, or some of them, (our main characters), were left to themselves almost completely. It’s as if the grown ups, Shark and the rest, know that something is going on, -they know about the deaths, but they don’t care. The seniors decided themselves whether to allow the girls in or not. How can they be the ones deciding on that? I understand girls (or boys), in a place where there’s quarters for both, trying to sneak to each other’s place. But I would assume they’d be doing that against the rules of the House. In a section where no grown ups are present, they don’t even attempt to keep the girls away from there. It’s as if the grown ups don’t even try to keep an image of decency, at least superficially. And that’s why I thought that frankly, they don’t give a peanut about that mix of boys -and girls.

        In the conversation with Mermaid, the two ladies were assuming that girls were already sleeping with the boys, they just did not want innocent Mermaid to go sour and follow Gaby’s and Ginger’s example. But once she tells them she intends to make Sphinx her lover, they tell her why is it that she choose so poorly(?)

        Something else that caught my attention, was that Tabaqui was sent 14 packages. Who sends them those?, and why did Shark confiscate them, until they all decided to revolt and get them? If his parents send him things, and things he asks for, it looks to me that Tabaqui is happy in the House (and maybe he is not together mentally, or maybe he’s just happy to be there, period. He moved there from the sixth? I think the sixth are those with the serious mental conditions. He moved to the Sissy Pack and was so happy there, feeling of use, with his ‘stolen’ trinkets.

        Can this be the House lay out?:
        The first, first class denizens, lol
        Second, maybe those in bad shape (drugs and suicidal?)
        Third, the Birds, -mentally retarded?, but not Vulture. (Why is he their leader, we don’t know)
        Fourth, -our guys that split from the Hounds, the Sissy Pack
        Fifth -Stuffage?
        Sixth – Can these be physically whole, but mentally ill, or physically whole orphans?

        Or maybe the orphans are spread all over the House, except by the First?

        And the girls’ wing?, how is it arranged? (Can it be that only some of them, the ‘bad’ ones, or atypical -who have grown up with some of the boys we know in the House, are the only ones who visit the boys’ wings?


      3. Darn it. I’m sitting outside and I lost what I wrote when I tried to post. I will try to briefly recap what I said.

        I agree that it is strange how the residents make so many of the rules, especially deciding whether or not girls are to be allowed on their floor and in their rooms. There is such a lack of adult presence and leadership.

        When Stinker received those packages, someone asked if they were the result of his letters, and he affirmed that they were. I’m not sure what letters they are referring to. It almost seems like we heard something earlier on about him writing letters, but I could be confusing it with him writing articles for the newspaper. Maybe Shark was holding them because it is suspicious for someone to receive so many packages. Maybe he was concerned that it wasn’t above board. Or maybe he just likes to hold power over them.

        Interesting thoughts about the various houses. Each house certainly has its own personality, but I’m not sure if they can be neatly separated into groups. Everyone in the first is a wheeler except one. Remember back when Stinker moved to the fourth, they were prejudice against wheelers. It seems they didn’t mix with them. Maybe the first was originally a place for all the wheelers, but over time, some came over to different groups. Each group has a few wheelers, except the Rats – they don’t have any. I agree that the third seems to house residents with mental handicaps, yet each house has at least one person labeled insensible. There is no fifth, so I think stuffage morphed into the hounds.


  10. Do you think Noble’s episode of feeling as if floating around the House, with his torso feeling hot, and his legs frozen, was a drug withdrawal?

    Do you think when Noble was in the Sepulcher, before he was taken by his mom, he ended up there because an overdose?, or a failed attempt at suicide? When he came back, he was different (until he bounced back), he didn’t use to care, when he was back, about his appearance, as he always did, or about others making a mess around him or with his things (maybe he was medicated?)

    Why did those three want to kill Rat, and why did Rat try to find refuge at Ralph’s? Why did Vulture give Ralph a joint, and Vulture kind of knows he will need it for his nerves? Why is Ralph more worried about Blind, once that Blind realizes those 3 tried to kill Red, than about those 3?

    Why were Red as Death and Ginger first at the Sepulcher, and why was Death the favorite there? (I keep coming back to unresolved questions that may or may not be connected with the present)


    1. I think Ralph was worried that Blind was going to kill the three. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the adults aren’t planning to do anything about them (although they may not, given how they have acted in the past). Right or wrong, Ralph is firmly convinced that Blind is dangerous.

      Red/Death… yes, let’s talk about him. I find him the character I am most drawn to in the whole book, and I have no idea why. I read Death as so gentle and sympathetic in that first scene in the Sepulchre. Then we see him morphed into horrible Vulture, but the truth lies just behind the shades, ready to leap out. If that old boy was dead and gone, that would be one thing, but I can’t help but see him stifled and suffocating under the persona of Vulture. I don’t see his revelations of his eyes as manipulative; I read them as moments when he allows that boy inside to show, to take a gulp of air before being shoved down again. It makes me heartsick, and I keep wondering “WHY?!” Did he pick this persona? Was it somehow forced on him? A protective covering? What could possibly be worth it?!

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      1. Why did sweet Death become threatening Red?
        Remember Red talking to Sphinx and Smoker there? When he takes off his glasses for a second, they see how beautiful his eyes are, he is like an angel, and he seems to go through all those pains to make himself look ugly. So, what happens to him if he shows a tender and nice looking nature?, Rat the same. She looks disgusting to her father, what happened to her when she looked more normal, maybe even beautiful. (Black died hair normally makes people look so harsh)


      2. More on your comments tomorrow, Katie, but a quick thought or two.

        I love what you say about Blind/Ginger.

        Part of me tends to look for the rational explanation, but there’s the Fairy Tale, Underside, Great Hairy Being components and I can’t reduce it all to the substances.

        I finished week 7 . There’s real fire, but once again, I don’t know what happens around it. They teased Smoker when he asked about the fire, saying that Noble had to stop embellishing his talk, and Smoker taking it literally, as if there were real fires in the House. That is why I thought he meant he was close to Ginger.

        Next week we’ll be able to speculate more about what happens on those LN.

        And could Noble have met Ginger at the Sepulcher.

        I also like all you said about the make up of the groups. (All wheelers but one in the first. Smoker thought he was going to be sent to either the 4th or the 6th, why?)

        The Pheasants had a death, right?, and in Smoker’s dream, they were mad at him for not attending the funeral.

        Who was Crab, who showed up dead?

        (Oh, I meant dyed hair in my previous comment, not died, lol)


      3. I wondered who Crab was too. There has been no mention of him in the book and he’s not named in any of the lists.

        I do think you are right that the houses are set up along certain criteria, and yet the kids sometimes choose where they go. Maybe Smoker knew he wouldn’t be sent to the 3rd because it seems they all have mental handicaps, and the 2nd doesn’t have any wheelers – or maybe there’s a reason beyond that. I think we’ve speculated that they could be violent or mentally unstable.

        Yeah, maybe Noble met Ginger in the Sepulcher. Hmm.


      4. Mslancast wrote: Red/Death… yes, let’s talk about him. I find him the character I am most drawn to in the whole book, and I have no idea why. I read Death as so gentle and sympathetic in that first scene in the Sepulchre. Then we see him morphed into horrible Vulture, but the truth lies just behind the shades, ready to leap out. If that old boy was dead and gone, that would be one thing, but I can’t help but see him stifled and suffocating under the persona of Vulture.

        Vulture and Red are not the same character. Death is Red, but Vulture is one of the Siamese.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Noble was taken to the Sepulcher after ingesting Moon River, right? I think at this point we all assume it is a drug of some sort? It makes sense to me that it would be an overdose. I took it that he was changed when he came back because they had him medicated. Maybe he had become depressed or suicidal in the place he had been taken and they put him on something? Some meds can really alter personality, kinda take the life out of a person. He seemed very apathetic and almost non-responsive when he returned. And what is up with his hair? Why would it be cut so carelessly and left in patches like that? Did he have some kind of surgery when he was on the outside?

      I found it interesting how Humpback became so angry when Lary started talking about the changes in Noble. (I also thought it was interesting that Lary is the one who brought it up since he is one of the least astute – maybe the point is that it’s just that obvious). Humpback is in denial. Why? Is it some sort of fear of the outsides and what it might do to a person?

      And what is going on with Noble in general now. He seems crazy. Silvia, I’m more and more willing to agree with you about drugs. When he comes to the room after Lary’s girlfriend was there, he was “red faced and crazy eyed.” Tabaqui says he looked very strange – “which is by now usual for him, but this time even more strange than usual.” Then he makes that horrible coffee concoction with basilisk eggs and gulps it down. He starts telling them that he was leaning to close to the fire. His smile is described as almost manic at one point and mysterious at another. Has he been back to the underside or is he on something – or both depending on how one reads the story? That night, he was sitting up staring at Tabaqui and chewing on his shirt. His behavior is concerning, for sure.

      And then of course we get the strange Ghost chapter that you alluded to, Silvia. I think your supposition is valid. Do we agree that whatever the particulars, he is visiting the underside, or trying to – maybe because of drugs, maybe just because? In the first paragraph, is the apparition Ginger? “Her eyes. Her hair. The slender arm in the grasp of the woven strap of bracelet.” Or is it something else, something enticing from the underside – or is Ginger an important part of the underside? Who is the Great Hairy from Fairy Tale Night? Could it have anything to do with Ginger? I need to go back and look at that.

      Noble leaves his body. He can stand at his full height. “His shadow floats across the floor.” When Smoker became a cat, he was told not to lose his Shadow. Vulture’s twin’s name was Shadow, and he died.

      Noble is searching for “the door. The only one he needs.” He’s trying to find the underside, right? Trying to find “her.” I’m confused by these “its”: “Finally Noble catches up with her – no, with it, it’s only his hand; its touch becomes his touch.” Help me out here? When he finds her, she yells at him to get out and then he wakes and he is so sure he was “really there.” So he experienced the underside before he left the House, and he wants to get back. I really don’t know what to make of his icy legs. How does Alexander know he will need a hot water bottle. He anticipates everyone’s needs, but how did he know what Noble was going through? “His face is on fire, his legs are pure ice. It’s happened before, but tonight he knows that it is a payment being exacted for that strange something he has allowed himself to perpetrate. Someone is reminding him what he is. Half a man, with the legs of a corpse.” If the first time he got to the underside was with moon river, it makes sense that he would have taken it again to try to get back. Maybe that’s why he seemed so weird in the chapter with the basilisk egg coffee.

      We know he’s in love with Ginger. Why is he searching for her in the underside? When did he fall in love with her? It’s new information for us since he returned, but did he meet her in the underside before he left and now he’s obsessed with her? “The fire of her hair under the regal diadems, the blackness of her eyes staring at him from the cardboard rectangles.” Is Ginger the queen of the underside? A Persephone? The Great Hairy? Blind is the ruler of the House. Does she love Blind because they both have some kind of important power – they both rule somehow and she feels they should therefore be together?

      And moving on….

      I think the three “hunters” were trying to take Red down. The three of them are listed as next in line under Red, so I believe they were trying to usurp his position. I agree with Sarah that Ralph new Blind would kill them. He referenced a law about three against one. Apparently it is law for the attack on Red to be atoned for. I wonder if it matters that Red didn’t die. Does the law still apply?

      This book is a lot about identity. Sarah, that’s a great perception about Red still being that gentle boy beneath his tough exterior. And I love your way with words. You said it all so very eloquently. ❤ Isn't that so much like us humans? Isn't it all too common to hide who we really are? Even growing up in healthy environments I think we often learn to self-protect and build a safe exterior as we encounter hurt and confusion while navigating childhood and adolescence. In a place like the House, with no adult (except Elk who is dead) to show tenderness and acceptance, it makes sense that the innocent child gets buried under the tough facade. Also, leaders are supposed to appear a certain way, to keep respect and a sense of awe about them, I surmise. So he's playing his designated part. I'm halfway through my life now, and I still feel in many ways like that child from long ago. We all keep that with us. Death is part of who Red is, but he won't be respected as Death. Hence the goofy glasses.

      I keep coming back to that question too – of Death and Ginger in the Sepulcher….


  11. Ralph thinks Blind dangerous. I agree. But Ralph doesn’t know dangerous in what way. Remember Blind telling his pack about the conversation, and complaining that Ralph seems to know the rules of the House, but Blind says or believes that he himself is the house, and he knows its rules. It’s as if Ralph doesn’t know why Blind killed Pompey, and why, apparently, he is not interested in those 3, or wasn’t until they attempted to kill Red.

    Why Ralph doesn’t show concern for Red?, I mean, he was concerned, the 3 even sliced his own cheek when he intervened, but why doesn’t he ask about why they went after Red?

    Ralph hits Blind in the stomach, what do you make of that violence against Blind, and why does Blind take it? (He could have fought back.)


  12. I finished typing week 7’s post. It’s not short yet I could have written much more, but on Thursday I’m going to a retreat with some ladies from my congregation, until Saturday morning, and it had to be finished. And today, since I had to drive to and fro the book club at my friend’s home, I listened from the chapters after week 7 I had read, and I got to a chapter entitled Ralph, and I cannot stop now. I’m going to retire now, and probably read some more. I think it’s going to be difficult, after this chapter, to stop until the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a test post because I’ve been trying to post on week 7 and keep getting an error message. Just wondering if there’s something wrong with that page or if it’s a general WP glitch or what…..


    1. Okay, weird, that worked, but it wouldn’t let me post with my FB account. I logged in with my old WP account. Tried that on the other page and it didn’t work….Well, I will just save my stuff in a word document for now and try to post again later. That might mean I totally bombard you all with a lot at once – but I will try not to.


      1. Oh, and Silvia, feel free to delete these posts so they aren’t cluttering up the discussion. Sorry!


      2. You’re fine, Katie, I am going to check week 7 in case I did something to it. I apologize, I will try to fix that.
        I am at the retreat, but I have been expecting one of your long comments. I can’t wait to discuss this week with all of you.


    1. Awwww, thanks on my behalf, and thanks to all who participated. I need to do this again. I think I am going to try to draft a light schedule for myself, and write freely according to the same old book club partitions, and see what happens, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A new discussion book club, for people who have already read the whole thing, so you don’t have to worry about spoilers for people who are on their first read, would be a fabulous experience, I think ! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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