The House of Discarded Dreams is a novel by Ekaterina Sedia.
Vimbai is a student of marine biology in the US. Since she loves the ocean (and horseshoe crabs) and the tension with her Zimbabwean born mother, she’s very happy when she finds a room in a house right in the dunes. But things in the house are quite special: her roommate Felix’ hair is a portal to another universe. Her other roommate Maya has a pack of possum-like creatures following her. Soon Vimbai discovers a Psychic Energy Baby in the house’s phone line and her dead African grandmother shows up. And that’s when the house drifts out on the ocean.
The House of Discarded Dreams is a weird book. It’s a book I expected to love because it’s so right up my alley, but it took me so long to get into it that it barely mattered anymore when I finally did.
Ekaterina Sedia’s prose is rather lyrical. There were many moments I loved like:
“It’s all right,” he answered. “You get used to it; you get used to everything.”
Vimbai shrugged and drank her coffee, considering all the things she never wanted to get used to; (…)
Their own world, their endless circus that had the good sense to run away with them.
Most importantly, it fit the dreamlike logic of the story.
But the trouble for me lay in exactly this dreamlike logic and the pacing. The book manages to throw you into an utter foreign world that is a little overwhelming but somehow it takes every wonder out of the discovery of this. It’s like reading another person’s dream which usually only makes sense to the dreamer themself.
It takes a lot of getting used to, this world and I just didn’t feel that the pacing was right to do this – the story just wasn’t fast enough to pull you in. That meant I kept my distance from the story and the characters until short before the end.
And that even though Vimbai is a fascinating character. Especially the conflict between the two cultures – her Zimbabwean ancestry and her American upbringing – was done sensitively and with a good resolution. Sedie dedicates a lot of time to get to know Vimbai, which meant that the supporting characters fell a little flat sometimes. Especially Felix suffered from this.
The House of Discarded Dreams is an ambitious book that doesn’t always keep its promises. But it’s still an impressive book I’m sure somebody else will like a lot better than I did.