Our Reading Lives

My Great White Whale: Searching for THE GOOD HOUSE by Tananarive Due

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Katie McLain

Contributing Editor

Katie's parents never told her "no" when she asked for a book, which was the start of most of her problems. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Lake Forest College and is working towards a master's degree in library science at U of I. She works full time at a public library reference desk in northern IL, specializing in readers’ advisory and general book enthusiasm, and she has a deep-rooted love of all things disturbing, twisted, and terrifying. (She takes enormous pleasure in creeping out her coworkers.) When she's not spending every waking hour at the library, she's at home watching Cubs baseball with her cats and her cardigan collection, and when she's not at home, she's spending too much money on concert tickets. Her hobbies include debating the finer points of Harry Potter canon, hitting people upside the head who haven’t read The Martian, and convincing her boyfriend that she can, in fact, fit more books onto her shelves. Twitter: @kt_librarylady

When I want to purchase a book, I make life difficult for myself. I don’t hop onto Amazon and order it with Prime shipping. I don’t call my local Barnes & Noble and ask if they have a copy in stock before heading over to pick it up. I don’t order it used through third party vendors. Instead, I make a Goodreads list and search for the books whenever I happen to be inside a book store. This is an incredibly inefficient way to obtain books, but for me, book buying is about the thrill of discovery. I love to be surprised whenever I see a book on my to-buy list just waiting for me on a book store shelf. It’s like the universe aligned everything just right so that the book would be on the shelf at the same time I was visiting that particular book store. It keeps me excited and on my toes, and I’m never quite sure what I’m about to discover every time I visit a book store or used book sale.

That being said, there is one book that has consistently eluded me for the last five years: The Good House by Tananarive Due. I checked it out from the library about five years ago, and I was absolutely hooked with its ingenious twist on the traditional haunted house story, its complex characters, and its use of African mythology. It was creepy, it was a richly told story, and it was completely unexpected. In fact, I checked out several times from the library before it went missing from the shelves and was deleted from the collection. I was heartbroken that one of my favorite books to read and recommend to people was gone, and it became my mission to find a copy for my own collection.

Except I have NEVER been able to find it.

I’ve checked new bookstores, used bookstores, and used book sales at churches and libraries. I’ve checked bookstores in multiple states, including Wisconsin, Texas, and Colorado. I check every time my boyfriend and I visit one of our local Half Price Books locations. I check every time I visit a Barnes & Noble, although I know my chances of finding it there are pretty much nonexistent – The Good House was written over ten years ago, and certain editions are out of print.

And if you read the first paragraph of this article, you’ll (rightly) guess that I haven’t been able to bring myself to order it online and have it shipped over here. I can get it with Amazon Prime shipping, and I know I can get it through the Half Price Books online marketplace for even cheaper. But this feels like cheating to me, and the longer I keep searching for this book, the harder it becomes to just give in and order it for myself. I’ve even taken to adding it onto my Christmas and birthday wish lists for the last several years, hoping that if I can’t find the book for myself, someone will surprise me by ordering it for me. But no dice.

The hunt for this book has gone on for so long that it’s become my own personal Great White Whale, and although I know I’ll still enjoy visiting bookstores if/when I finally find my own copy, the thrill of the search is a big part of what drives me to seek out random bookstores and pop inside, hoping that this will be the place where my search finally ends.

Has anyone else had this experience? Are there any books that you’ve searched for that you just can’t seem to find? Let me know!