The Birthing House: A Novel

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9780312624156: The Birthing House: A Novel
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About the Author:

Christopher Ransom is a native of Boulder, Colorado, who has lived in New York and Los Angeles. He now resides with his wife and three rescued dogs in a 142-year-old former birthing house in Mineral Point, Wisconsin.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

They were in the house a week before it came for him.Joanna Harrison was dozing on the couch in the TV room while herhusband stood on the deck, breathing through a sweet clove cigarette that burnedhis throat and floated a candy cloud above his empty thoughts. The cigarette wasthe kind found on the back covers of men’s magazines, the smoke of wannabes.What Conrad wanted to be this night was content, and, for a few more minutes ofthis vanishing sunset hour, he was.Content equally with himself and his lot: a full acre of sloping lawn,century-old maple and black walnut trees, and a garden as large as a swimmingpool, its aged gray gate roped with grape vines. Raspberry and clover grew thickin the shade of the shaggy pines still moist with the day’s sweet rain.He heard running water and looked through the window into the kitchen.Her blurry, sleepy-slouched shape hovered for a moment, probably filling a glassto take to bed. He waved to her. She either did not see him or was too tired towave back. She turned away and faded back into the house.He wanted to follow her, but he waited. Let her brush and floss, finishwith a shot of the orange Listerine before she turned back the freshly launderedEgyptian cotton. You can’t rush these things. These are delicate times. Eyesclosed, he could almost see her stretched out in one of her tanktinis and cottonboy-cut underwear, a big girl-woman reading another marketing book he alwayssaid were made for people on planes. She must be happy here. Otherwise, shewould be cleaning and planning and avoiding bedtime.Summer had arrived early. The house was muggy. He wondered if shewould be warm enough to go without covers, but cool enough to allow his touch.He had been shocked to discover that he wanted her more now. He wasstill madder than hell about the entire stupid scene with That Fucker Jake and allits implications, its mysteries. But he knew the balance of things and how he’dnot been holding up his share of them was half the problem. Maybe more thanhalf. She’d almost slipped away. Even before that nasty little homecoming it hadbeen months, and since the fresh start (that was how he thought of it, but nevernamed it as such, not aloud) he’d been watching for signs. If Luther and Alicewere in their crates, that was one sign. If she had showered that was yet another,though never a binding one. None of the signs were binding, which addedsuspense to the marriage and kept his hopes in a perpetual swing from boyishcuriosity on one side to blood-stewing resentment on the other.He walked up the deck steps to the wooden walkway, into the mudroom.He climbed stairs (the servants’ stairs off the kitchen, not the front stairs with theblack maple banister, which for some reason he had been avoiding since themove) and felt the weight of the day in his bones.By the time he finished brushing his teeth he was tired the way only peoplewho have unpacked ninety percent of their possessions in a single day can betired. His mind was empty, his muscles what his mom said his father used to calllabor-fucked, the old man’s way of suggesting that work is its own reward.I’m sorry, Dad-Work. He knew his hands still worked for her. He thought she liked hishands better than just about every other part of him. He no longer relied on hisappearance as the catalyst, didn’t know many men married more than a few yearswho did. He knew he wasn’t a Jake. At thirty he was what divorced femalebartenders had from time to time called cute, no longer handsome, if he ever was.He felt remarkably average. He had acquired a belly, but the move had alreadyburned that down from a 36 to a 34. With the yard work he’d be down to a 32—his high school Levi’s size—by the end of June. Jo always said she liked his laughlines, the spokes radiating from what his mother used to call his wily eyes. Wilyused to be enough, but now he was just grateful for a second chance. He couldlive with average—so long as he could still seduce her.Conrad wound his way through the back hall, making the S-turn throughthe library, into the front hallway. The creaking floorboards were a new sound,allowing him to birth one final clear thought for the day.This is a healing place. This is home.Conrad waded into the moonlight pooling on the new queen-sized bed—another purchase, this one more deserved—he’d made without her input. Theceiling fan was whirring, the dogs were curled into their crates on the floor, andJo was waiting for him on top of the new sheets. She was without a top, wearingonly loose fitting boxers (his), which were somehow better than if she werenaked. That she had gone halfway without prematurely forfeiting the undergarment was a gesture that made him feel understood. The arc of her hips roseoff the bed like the fender of a street rod and his blood awakened.With his blood, his hopes.No longer content, Conrad stretched out, not caring what funny tent shapehis penis made as it unfolded like a miniature welcome banner. He rolled to oneside, facing her. She smelled of earth and lavender and something otherwiseherbal—new scents for her in this new place. Her belly was nearly flat except forthe smallest of rolls just above the waistband, and he loved this, too. He called ither little chile relleno and she would slap him, but it didn’t bother her, not really.Her hips were womanly wide, but with her height she remained sleek, especiallywhen prone, like now. She stood a little over six feet to his five-nine. His fingersgrazed her fine brown navel hairs. Her eyes gleamed under heavy lids, glassy andblack as mountain ponds at midnight.It was a beginning, and he was a man who loved beginnings more thanmiddles or endings.“Come,” Jo said. Or maybe Con, half of his name.“Hm?”“. . . not ready.”“Not what?” His hand found the elastic rim of her waistband, then movedinto the open front of his boxer shorts on her.“. . . about behbee,” she murmured.“What, Baby?”Not baby. Uppercase, Baby. A nickname he used.“. . . owin me the behbee...be-ah-eye,” she mumbled, which sounded likewas going to be all right.“Of course,” he said, like it was his idea too. He had no idea.“. . . bee woul’ go a father.”We should go farther.He pushed one, then two fingers lower to her mound, but her legs werecrossed and he swerved off course, touching only her thigh. Just her thigh, butsoft was soft and his excitement ratcheted up another notch.“-not ready,” she squeaked, rolling away.Shit. Might not have been sleeping before, but was now. Snoring too.Weird, he thought. Had she done this before? With the eyes open and thetalking?Should he let her sleep or try one more time?Yes . . . no. He kissed her goodnight and rolled to his back, allowing thefan to push warm summer air over his fading, obedient hard-on. His minddropped into that lower gear, the one that is not yet sleep but somehow dreamingalready.In the half-dream he was in the house, beside her, finding the wetness andsliding in not for the first time but as if they had been moving this way forminutes or an hour. He was all corded muscle and arched away, feeling her soakhim in her own undulations. The movement was soothing, almost non-sexual,like being rocked in a crib.Her grip on him strengthened and clenched, pushing back with legs andass, drawing his ejaculate out in a sudden burst that ended too quickly, leavinghim weak and sleepy all over again.Drifting . . .Until the dream, the same one or some new post-coital version, was splitby the sound of crying. His body twitched itself awake, and he knew these werenot Jo’s tears. This was the noise a newborn makes after sucking in its firstviolent breath as it enters this violent world. It was a sound that had skippedmewling and launched straight into wailing, and it was coming from behind awall or far away.Faintly, under the baby’s hacking shriek, there arose another sound. Thisone did sound like a woman, and he imagined the infant’s mother, or themidwife, perhaps. This older cry in the dark was a trailing scream, as ifsomething was pulling her away from her child and down a long corridor thatnarrowed to nothing.Panicked, he rolled over to shake Jo—why hasn’t she woken up andgrabbed me?—and felt the cool stirring of air as she lifted off the bed. He couldsee only blackness, and with the drone of the fan he could not hear her feetpadding on the wood floor. A flash of her silhouette in the doorway left a retinalecho, but the room was too dark to grasp any details. If he saw her at all, she wasgone now.To the bathroom, he thought. There she goes, carrying my seed. Thesemi-sleep-molestation and abrupt ending made him wince with guilt, but he didnot seek her out in the ensuing silence. Exhausted from the day of unpacking(and tossed dream sex), Conrad decided the crying was but a fragment of thedream, a lingering scene planted by her words.“. . . the behbee, the behbee . . .”The crying returned once, quieter and farther away, until like a passingthunderstorm it faded to nothing.He hovered on the edge of sleep.Something’s wrong.He sat up and rubbed his eyes. She had not returned.“Jo?”She did not answer.“Jo,” he said, louder. “Baby, you okay?”His eyes adjusted to the dark. The dogs were standing at the masterbedroom door facing the hall, whining, tails stiff like the hairs on their shoulders.Conrad flattened his body and counted to ten. It’s rational, he told himself.When something so unexplainable and real (the dogs made it real) as a cryingbaby in your childless home wakes you, it is normal to ignore it and go back tosleep. So back he went, as deep as a man can go, until he forgot the all about thecrying sounds and her cold departure, her absolute absence.Even when, in the morning, waking to a half-empty bed, he paddeddownstairs and found her where he’d left her before he stepped out for a smoke atdusk, sleeping on the sofa.Alone.

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Book Description GRIFFIN, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. A chilling ghost story that is also a tale of exquisite psychological suspense, The Birthing House marks the debut of a writer whose first novel is a terrifying tour de force. Conrad and Joanna Harrison, a young couple from Los Angeles, attempt to save their marriage by leaving the pressures of the city to start anew in a quiet, rural setting. They buy a Victorian mansion that once served as a haven for unwed mothers, called a birthing house. One day when Joanna is away, the previous owner visits Conrad to bequeath a vital piece of the house s historic heritage, a photo album that he claims belongs to the house. Thumbing through the old, sepia-colored photographs of midwives and fearful, unhappily pregnant girls in their starched, nineteenth-century dresses, Conrad is suddenly chilled to the bone: staring back at him with a countenance of hatred and rage is the image of his own wife. Thus begins a story of possession, sexual obsession, and, ultimately, murder, as a centuries-old crime is reenacted in the present, turning Conrad and Joanna s American dream into a relentless nightmare. Seller Inventory # APC9780312624156

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Book Description GRIFFIN, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. A chilling ghost story that is also a tale of exquisite psychological suspense, The Birthing House marks the debut of a writer whose first novel is a terrifying tour de force. Conrad and Joanna Harrison, a young couple from Los Angeles, attempt to save their marriage by leaving the pressures of the city to start anew in a quiet, rural setting. They buy a Victorian mansion that once served as a haven for unwed mothers, called a birthing house. One day when Joanna is away, the previous owner visits Conrad to bequeath a vital piece of the house s historic heritage, a photo album that he claims belongs to the house. Thumbing through the old, sepia-colored photographs of midwives and fearful, unhappily pregnant girls in their starched, nineteenth-century dresses, Conrad is suddenly chilled to the bone: staring back at him with a countenance of hatred and rage is the image of his own wife. Thus begins a story of possession, sexual obsession, and, ultimately, murder, as a centuries-old crime is reenacted in the present, turning Conrad and Joanna s American dream into a relentless nightmare. Seller Inventory # BZE9780312624156

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Book Description GRIFFIN, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.A chilling ghost story that is also a tale of exquisite psychological suspense, The Birthing House marks the debut of a writer whose first novel is a terrifying tour de force. Conrad and Joanna Harrison, a young couple from Los Angeles, attempt to save their marriage by leaving the pressures of the city to start anew in a quiet, rural setting. They buy a Victorian mansion that once served as a haven for unwed mothers, called a birthing house. One day when Joanna is away, the previous owner visits Conrad to bequeath a vital piece of the house s historic heritage, a photo album that he claims belongs to the house. Thumbing through the old, sepia-colored photographs of midwives and fearful, unhappily pregnant girls in their starched, nineteenth-century dresses, Conrad is suddenly chilled to the bone: staring back at him with a countenance of hatred and rage is the image of his own wife. Thus begins a story of possession, sexual obsession, and, ultimately, murder, as a centuries-old crime is reenacted in the present, turning Conrad and Joanna s American dream into a relentless nightmare. Seller Inventory # APC9780312624156

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Book Description Griffin. Paperback. Condition: New. 320 pages. Dimensions: 8.1in. x 5.4in. x 0.9in.A chilling ghost story that is also a tale of exquisite psychological suspense, The Birthing House marks the debut of a writer whose first novel is a terrifying tour de force. Conrad and Joanna Harrison, a young couple from Los Angeles, attempt to save their marriage by leaving the pressures of the city to start anew in a quiet, rural setting. They buy a Victorian mansion that once served as a haven for unwed mothers, called a birthing house. One day when Joanna is away, the previous owner visits Conrad to bequeath a vital piece of the houses historic heritage, a photo album that he claims belongs to the house. Thumbing through the old, sepia-colored photographs of midwives and fearful, unhappily pregnant girls in their starched, nineteenth-century dresses, Conrad is suddenly chilled to the bone: staring back at him with a countenance of hatred and rage is the image of his own wife. Thus begins a story of possession, sexual obsession, and, ultimately, murder, as a centuries-old crime is reenacted in the present, turning Conrad and Joannas American dream into a relentless nightmare. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9780312624156

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