The house on Old Mill Road has stood in an open field for longer than Jesse Wells has been alive, its crooked windows and jutting turret tormenting the kids of Warsaw, Michigan the way only a haunted house knows how. Everyone imagines that something terrible lurks within the house’s abandoned rooms—especially Jesse and his two closest friends, Casey and Reed. But when Reed chooses the house as a backdrop for his own suicide, childhood ghost stories are transformed into a nightmare that sends Jesse into a downward spiral of grief.
Nearly twenty years later, Jesse stands on the collapsing steps of the house that snatched away his best friend. Casey has asked him to revisit their old demons, if only to help them find closure that’s long overdue. But tragedy finds them once more, and Jesse is left forever changed.
Now, left to cope with the disaster that had become his life, Jesse must unravel the mystery behind the house that has terrified him since he was a boy. To fail is to lose everything he has left. But success might come at an even a higher price.
Horror After Dark Review
IF YOU SEE HER, by Ania Ahlborn, is a novel with a premise that drew me in immediately–a mysterious, abandoned farmhouse that is rumored to be haunted. Our first glimpse of it takes place twenty years in the past, when three friends–Casey, Reed, and Jesse–drive to the old structure, due to one’s obsession with it . . .
“. . . A place that had always been there. Always. Since the beginning of time.”
Although questions are raised when Reed dies there–except for his two friends that were with him–it was an open and shut case. Yet 20 years later, the questions persist for Jesse and Casey.
“. . . What the hell happened inside that house? . . . “
When back in the present, Alhborn paints a picture of the other two friends. Casey, a successful U-tuber showing empty, derelict buildings, and Jesse, a teacher at the small-town school he once attended–barely staying afloat, financially.
“There’s no ultimate solution. No perfect way to solve your problems.”
When Casey appears at Jesse’s one night, uncharacteristically manic and unsettled, the two end up revisiting the house of their nightmares–one in which they never truly escaped.
“. . . sometimes a place grabs ahold of you, and this one’s got me in a vice grip.”
As far as the main characters go, Casey was by far the more interesting of the two, in my opinion. Outwardly easy-going and charismatic, his inner emotions were always carefully shielded. By contrast, Jesse–an alcoholic that sobered up only with the help of his, now, wife–is in a constant state of depression. Even with the good things he has, he’s always brooding–whether it be about the past, or about a future he knows he’ll never attain.
“You will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do . . . “
The atmosphere of that abandoned farmhouse is suitably dreadful. Everything from the run0down state it’s now in, to the untamed drive that leads up to it. Alhborn paints a perfect picture of desolation with the hint of something more malevolent at the heart of it all.
“. . . This place? There’s something wrong with it. It’s infected . . . “
Overall, I think the story at the core of this novel was unique and exciting to read about. The problem is that we really don’t get to that pivotal point until about three quarters through. The entire middle half felt very repetitive to me, simply delving into Jesse’s overwhelming depression in various settings. Nothing much occurs other than the worsening of his mindset. I think this may have worked if it had been backed by more tangible events, linking directly to the house on Old Mill Road, and its history.
“. . . don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to . . . “
I loved the parts where tidbits were released about the past of the house, and what may have caused it to become what it now was. However, Jesse’s relative inaction didn’t do much to keep me invested in the story, and I simply found him overbearingly depressing. I don’t believe you need to like the characters to appreciate a good novel, but I do feel you should have an understanding of them, or connection to, in order to “care” about what happens next.
“I amplified the negative . . .”
I believe I would have enjoyed this novel much more so if there was more to the main character, but the atmosphere and central idea managed to carried it to a slightly above average read for myself.
About The Author
About Ania Ahlborn
Born in Ciechanow Poland, Ania has always been drawn to the darker, mysterious, and sometimes morbid sides of life. Her earliest childhood memory is of crawling through a hole in the chain link fence that separated her family home from the large wooded cemetery next door. She’d spend hours among the headstones, breaking up bouquets of silk flowers so that everyone had their equal share.
Beyond writing, Ania enjoys cooking, baking, movies, and traveling.
Learn more about Ania on her site, www.AniaAhlborn.com.