The Gray House is an astounding tale of how what others understand as liabilities can be leveraged into strengths.
Bound to wheelchairs and dependent on prosthetic limbs, the physically disabled students living in the House are overlooked by the Outsides. Not that it matters to anyone living in the House, a hulking old structure that its residents know is alive. From the corridors and crawl spaces to the classrooms and dorms, the House is full of tribes, tinctures, scared teachers, and laws - all seen and understood through a prismatic array of teenagers' eyes.
But student deaths and mounting pressure from the Outsides put the time-defying order of the House in danger. As the tribe leaders struggle to maintain power, they defer to the awesome power of the House, attempting to make it through days and nights that pass in ways that clocks and watches cannot record.
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Collective consciousness, budding sociopathy
Wonderful book that I would definitely recommend! The book took place at a school that was set somewhere between reality and another world. The students grow, change, and come of age within the walls of the Gray House, exposing their adolescent problems and fears along the way. The book moves from student to teacher and back to student which gives a wonderful look at the environment, events, and the cast of characters from different points of view.
As the story develops, you're left wondering about the nature of a particular student named Blind. Blind is a fantastic character, part hero and anti-hero, taken in by the "rules" of the house and someone displaying sociopathic tendencies or the behaviors of someone not quite human. At the end of the book, you are still wondering which it is. In the meantime, you're watching the students grow up, develop distinct personalities, and learn what it is to stand on their own as individuals. This is important for them to learn because they had spent their lives engaging with the collective whole of their school groups with friends that are more like family. The students become inexorably linked to the House and breathe life into its walls through a collective consciousness that envelops all the students at the school. The setting becomes another character as the book moves along and you're left wondering if the house doesn't have a life of its own...
I had not listened to any of this narrator's books before and I did not become a fan here. He has little inflection in tone, which can be a challenge with such a long read. He also over pronounces the "w" which is an affectation that has always bothered me so it was hard to hear for 36 hours of this book. The story was so good that I kept listening, but had I not liked the book so much, I would not have cared to listen to a whole book narrated by Merriman. I may buy the book in print and read it next time, instead of listening to the narration again.
While this is a book that I would have listened to in one sitting, it's not possible to do that with such a long book. Once you start hearing about the students, their lives, their cliques, and their associations with other groups, however, it becomes an all-absorbing narrative.
It's a book that deserves more than one read, you can't take it all in at once. I will revisit it again to see what else I can pick up among the students and teachers of the house.
- Jessica H.