(Note: An updated version of this recommendation is available here.)
I should start this off by saying that, yes, I definitely recommend Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. But that doesn’t mean I recommend it for everyone.
Haunted is probably one of the weirdest novels I’ve ever read.
Okay, to be honest, there’s another phrase that comes to my mind, but I know not everyone is okay with the swearing involved in that phrase, so I won’t use it here. Basically, however, the novel gets into some pretty gory detail, and some of the things that happen – well, they wouldn’t exactly pop into the minds of most people without some sort of prompt. It’s pretty disgusting, to be honest.
But, despite all of that (or possibly because of some morbid curiosity about it), Haunted was a novel that I just couldn’t put down.
There’s a sort of dark humour present in this novel. Yes, Palahniuk wants to shock and disturb his readers, but I think he also wanted them to look back at the characters’ situations and not help but laugh. Because while the situations are a bit gut-wrenching, they’re also a bit outlandish. They’re not likely to happen to most people – and yet, they could.
I also quite liked the format of Haunted. There’s an overall plot (a group of writers trapped in a “Survivor”-like situation) taking place throughout the book, read in the chapter portions of the novel. But between each chapter is a poem and a short story meant to more fully introduce each character in the novel. The poems and short stories don’t exactly relate to the overall plot, other than to help you better understand why each of the characters behaves the way they do.
But, like I said, this isn’t a novel that’s going to appeal to every reader. You definitely need a strong stomach, and it’s probably best if you’re not too easily offended. If you’d like an example of what you’ll be encountering, check out the history of Palahniuk’s public readings of “Guts,” one of the stories in the novel (the story itself is also available on Palahniuk’s website, if you’d like a preview). More than 70 people fainted at the readings, though it’s unclear whether it was because of the content or because they were attempting to hold their breath.
Haunted is a novel made up of twenty-three horrifying, hilarious, and stomach-churning stories. They’re told by people who have answered an ad for a writer’s retreat and unwittingly joined a “Survivor”-like scenario where the host withholds heat, power, and food. As the storytellers grow more desperate, their tales become more extreme, and they ruthlessly plot to make themselves the hero of the reality show that will surely be made from their plight. This is one of the most disturbing and outrageous books you’ll ever read, one that could only come from the mind of Chuck Palahniuk.