Betty Stash loves nothing and no one more than she loves Pipets, her childhood home. Every inch of House (as she calls it) is precious to her—perhaps a bit too precious, as we learn in the beginning of the book that she has been recently diagnosed as an objectophile. As the oldest daughter, she expected to be the one to inherit Pipets. After the death of her mother, Betty learned Pipits was to be inherited by younger sister Gloria. She is enraged, thinking it yet another example of “beloveds”—beautiful, lucky people—having things work out perfectly for them at the expense of someone else. Betty is determined to have Pipets for herself, however, and has no problem doing whatever it takes to make that happen.
What I liked:
Betty’s obsession with the house was oddly captivating to read about. Her need to be on the grounds or in the house itself was pretty creepy sometimes, especially as you see how brazen she becomes about it.
This novel isn’t a true gothic, but it definitely puts off a gothic vibe at various points in the story, which I really enjoyed.
A portion of the story takes place in London, at Betty’s former residence. I don’t want to spoil what happens, so I’ll just say that the issues she has with her downstairs neighbors—a couple she considers to be another pair of “beloveds”—perfectly illustrate how increasingly unhinged she has become. When things come to a head, her extreme narcissism convinces her she did nothing wrong, and her neighbors were to blame for everything.
What I didn’t like:
Gloria and her husband Henry—despite Betty’s increasingly bizarre behavior—never once seemed to suspect that she was up to no good. Henry clearly wanted Betty to leave many times, but it was always more indicative of his discomfort at having her around when he had (very briefly) dated her in the past, or simply wanting to be alone with his wife and baby.
Gloria was completely clueless about Betty’s bitter resentment of her, which felt like a bit of a stretch because she’s a psychodynamic psychotherapist. Shouldn’t she have noticed something was off about her sister?! And yet—despite some pretty big red flags that should have screamed Betty was involved in certain incidents—she never once suspected a thing.
What disappointed me:
The ending felt premature. A highly significant thing happened; a twist I didn’t expect that literally made me gasp aloud. I hurried to go to the next page, excited to see what would happen now, only to realize I’d reached the end of the book.
Perhaps other who read it will feel that it was a natural end point. I can see how it works as an ending, but it didn’t work for me. I felt there were more than a few loose ends that prevented it from having a truly satisfying ending.
Cool premise for a story, but the cluelessness of Henry and Gloria and the abrupt ending dampened the enjoyment I felt in reading other portions of the book. Still, I’m giving the book 3.5 stars because it kept me reading despite any dissatisfaction I felt at times.
About the Book
An exploration of domestic derangement, as sinister as Daphne Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, that plumbs the depths of sibling rivalry with wit and menace.
Oh, to be a Beloved—one of those lucky people for whom nothing ever goes wrong. Everything falls into their laps without effort: happiness, beauty, good fortune, allure.
Betty Stash is not a Beloved—but her little sister, the delightful Gloria, is. She’s the one with the golden curls and sunny disposition and captivating smile, the one whose best friend used to be Betty’s, the one whose husband should have been Betty’s. And then, to everyone’s surprise, Gloria inherits the family manse—a vast, gorgeous pile of ancient stone, imposing timbers, and lush gardens—that was never meant to be hers.
Losing what Betty considers her rightful inheritance is the final indignity. As she single-mindedly pursues her plan to see the estate returned to her in all its glory, her determined and increasingly unhinged behavior—aided by poisonous mushrooms, talking walls, and a phantom dog—escalates to the point of no return. The Beloveds will have you wondering if there’s a length to which an envious sister won’t go.