The Good House

A Novel

Formats and Prices


Trade Paperback


Trade Paperback

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 6, 2004. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Award-winning author Tananarive Due’s spine- tingling tale of supernatural suspense weaves a stronger net than ever’ (Kirkus Reviews). As a woman tries to understand her son’s suicide, she uncovers startling truths about powers that she has inherited from her family and the role she must consequently play in order to save her hometown from the forces of evil. Expertly weaving a subtle tapestry of fear in this ‘subtle tale of terror’ (Graham Joyce), Due takes her place alongside literary horror masters such as Stephen King and Anne Rice.’


Also by Tananarive Due






1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2003 by Tananarive Due

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions ther of in any form whatsoever. For information address Atria Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

Designed by Kevin Hanek

Composition by Melissa Isriprashad

Set in Monotype Dante

ISBN-10: 0-7434-7598-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-7434-7598-3

ATRIA BOOKS is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Visit us on the World Wide Web:

For my grandmother

Lottie Sears Houston


May 3, 1920–December 25, 2000


We miss you, Mother

In Eden, who sleeps happiest?

The serpent.




A mudslide on Walnut Lane last Saturday, brought about by heavy rains, has left eight families without homes as a "river of mud" swept whole houses from their foundations and smashed them to bits at midnight. Miraculously, there were no human lives lost, but there were great losses in property and livestock. Only the house built by Elijah Goode still stands on the entirety of Walnut Lane. This is Sacajawea's first such mudslide in recent memory.

Our neighbors need our prayers and clothing donations for their recovery. Bring any donations to Sacajawea First Church of God.


June 21, 1929

(From the archives of the Sacajawea

Historical Society)


4, 1929

THE KNOCKING at her door early Thursday afternoon might have sounded angry to an ear unschooled in the difference between panic and a bad mood, but Marie Toussaint knew better.

The knocking hammered like a hailstorm against the sturdy door Marie Toussaint's husband had built with wood he'd salvaged from a black walnut tree knocked over in the mudslide. The mud's recent wrath had left their two-story house untouched, but sprays of buckshot fired at the house during cowardly moments, usually at night, had pocked and splintered the old door. The mere sight of the damaged door had always made her angry, and Marie Toussaint no longer trusted herself when she was angry.

From the ruckus at the door, there might be two or three people knocking at once. Before Marie could look up from the piano keys that had absorbed her while she tried to command her fingers through Beethoven's Sonate Pathétique, John swept past her, his thick hand wrapped around the butt of his shotgun. He kept his gun leaning up against the wall in the kitchen like a whisk broom, ready for finding.

"Get in the wine cellar. Latch the door," he said.

"Maybe it's Dominique, John."

"Hell it is."

She knew he was right. They had driven Dominique to the church an hour ago in the wagon. Her daughter would never walk back home by herself—and not just because of the mile's distance between their house and the church that had accepted Dominique for summer Bible classes in an unprecedented gesture of goodwill since the slide. Today, Dominique was at a special Independence Day class, where she was no doubt learning about how much God had blessed America. Marie had lectured Dominique on the dangers, though. She was a smart, obedient girl. If she walked home alone, she might become a target to those who disapproved of the church's decision to treat her like any other young citizen despite her brown skin.

These visitors had nothing to do with Dominique.

John crept like a cat near the door, as if he expected it to fly open despite its locks. Very few townspeople in Sacajawea locked their doors during daylight hours, or even at night, for the most part, but peace of mind was a luxury Marie and her husband could ill afford.

Watching her husband's caution, Marie felt knowledge bubble up inside of her. She sensed the ever-knowing voice of her guiding esprit, a voice she had first heard when she was six. That voice had guided Marie well in the twenty-five years since. Her esprit had led her from New Orleans to Daytona to San Francisco to Sacajawea, this riverfront town hidden in the Washington woodlands. As a girl, Marie had named her esprit Fleurette because that was Grandmère's name and therefore must contain some of her wisdom, she'd decided. And Fleurette was a wise one, indeed.

Fleurette did not want Marie to open the door. Her burning ears told her so.

"Who's there?" John called out in a big, barking voice that stopped the ruckus cold.

"That you, Red John?" a reedy man's voice came back through the door. Marie recognized Sheriff Kerr's voice, though he sounded unusually nervous and winded. The sheriff was neither friend nor protector to them, despite his tin star. Sheriff Kerr's rifle had fired most of the buckshot that had ruined their door, she was certain.

"Red John, you open this door. On my word, there's no shenanigans. We've got a sick child out here, and folks tell me your colored gal has some nurse training. They're sayin' she saved livestock hurt within an inch of their lives after the slide. God knows we need her now."

John glanced back at Marie, who had risen to her feet without realizing it. Her ears still burned, but Fleurette's voice was lost beneath the sudden, concerned beating of her heart.

"Who's sick?" she said, but John waved to shush her.

"The woman you call my 'colored gal,' she has a name. Speak of her proper," John said to the closed door, unmoved.

"Goddammit, Red John," the sheriff said, sounding more like his old self. "We've come for Mrs. T'saint. Is that what she wants to be called, you ornery injun? She can call herself King George of England, for all I care. I don't like this any more'n you do, but Hal's girl needs doctoring in a hurry, and we've got to put the past aside. I can't fathom any God-fearing woman who'd nurse pigs and goats at this house and not people. Would you have this girl die here on your stoop? Open this door before we break it down. I mean it, Red John."

"Please, Red John." Another voice came through, Hal Booth's. A sick child's father.

"Do it, John," Marie said, and only then did her husband unbolt the two locks. He did it on her word, not on the sheriff's or Hal Booth's. John made his position clear by the look he gave Marie with a stab of his deeply set brown eyes.

Five people tumbled into the house with the stench of fear and summer perspiration, tracking red brick dust from the front porch into the foyer, onto the front rug already muddied beyond repair by the refugees who had crowded here the night of the slide. All of the arrivals were men except for Maddie Booth, who was sixteen, twice as old as Dominique. Maddie was limp in her father's arms. Maddie was a small-boned girl, but she weighed more than a hundred pounds, surely, so they must have suffered quite a climb up the twenty-one stone steps that led to Marie's house from the road below. The steps were steeply set apart.

Marie wouldn't have recognized Maddie except that they had named her, because her appearance was so changed. Her waxen blond hair was usually neatly braided, but today it was a hive of straw atop her head, matted and untamed. And her eyes! Marie could see only the rims of Maddie's gray irises, which were rolled up unnaturally high; the rest was just pink and bleary, sightless. Saliva streamed from the girl's mouth, dampening her rumpled dress in a large V across her breast. At the instant her dangling feet touched the red dust on the floor, the girl suddenly shuddered like someone who'd felt the lash of a horsewhip. It looked exactly like an epileptic's convulsive seizure, Marie thought. She had studied epilepsy at the Mary McLeod Hospital and Training School for Nurses in Florida, so she knew a few things about the brain disorder that would be a great help if Maddie's ailment were what it appeared to be.

But that was not so. Whatever was troubling this girl might look like epilepsy, but surely it was not. Fleurette's warning rose to a screech in Marie's head, as if trying to split her skull in two. Never, never had Fleurette carried on so. That was how Marie came to the terrible realization, although she'd suspected the truth from the mere sight of Maddie, especially after the girl's resistance to the red brick dust Marie had ground and freshened every morning to protect the house since the mudslide. To see how the girl's legs had jerked away! Marie had heard of such cases from Grandmère, but she had never seen one this pronounced with her own eyes.

And then there was the smell. Maddie Booth stank.

"Papa," Marie said, mute except for that word. She stopped in her tracks. What name was there for this? A baka had been brought to her house, in a flesh disguise.

"She's had a fit," Maddie's father said, his blue eyes imploring. "She's never before been sickly, not like this. But it started yesterday morning. Said her stomach was ailing her. Then this morning, she was out of her mind, talking senseless. Her skin's burning up one minute, cold as a block of ice the next. And her breathing…"

Yes, Marie could hear Maddie's breathing. The girl's chest heaved with her labored breaths, and the sound was like choked gurgling from a deep well. Unnatural. The intervals between her breaths were horrible in their length, nearly interminable. This girl was dying.

John's lean, rigid form stood tall over the other men, and Marie saw his eyes. He knew the truth, too. The lines of his jaw grew sharper as he locked his teeth.

"Help her, Mrs. T'saint," Hal Booth said, thrusting Maddie toward her like a sack of flour. "Please do something. She's our only girl, our baby. If something happens to her…"

Marie wiped her hands on the dustcloth she always carried in her apron pocket, not because her hands were dirty, but because her hands needed something to do. She must think. "Lay her down on the sofa in the parlor. Keep her head propped up so she's not choking. Watch her close," Marie said. "Wait for me."

Those sure-spoken words might as well have been someone else's, because Marie was not at all sure. Her hands felt like frail corn-shucks, drained of blood. Until now, today had been an ordinary day, she realized. She'd been about to soak her green beans and begin drying her herbs, like any other weekday. She'd had no telling dreams, no whispers from Fleurette to shake her from her sleep. The only odd thing about today had been John coming home from his logging camp twenty miles down the road because his back was hurting him—but even that wasn't so odd, because his back hurt from time to time when he forgot to drink his tea. She'd never taken John's backaches to signify anything special, and she'd been glad for his unexpected company.

Yet here she was, facing this thing. And in her own home. Where had her warning been?

Then, she remembered one of the first lessons Grandmère had taught her: There is a cost for all things, one mirroring the size of the other. Marie could hardly say she hadn't known to expect it. She had brought it here herself, as surely as if she'd called it.

Fleurette was in a frenzy in Marie's head. Marie's ears burned so badly now, she wished she could pull them clean off and be done with the pain. If she could heed Fleurette's soundless voice, she would run all of these intruders back out where they'd come from, even if it was at gunpoint. Then, she'd be wise to begin lighting candles right away, if it wasn't too late already.

As she turned toward the stairs, Marie began whispering prayers she had never uttered.

"Marie?" John said, taking long strides to follow her.

"A girl so young…," Marie muttered, and her hands trembled. She could still smell Maddie even here, at the staircase, and the stench nearly turned her stomach. If any of the rest of them had the ability to smell it as she did, they would not be able to bring themselves to touch that child, she thought. She wondered how she could touch Maddie herself, when the time came. "C'est tragique, John. C'est sinistre."

"This is not your fight." John had never been a whisperer, and Marie was sure everyone in the house heard him when he spoke, his low-pitched voice bouncing across the walls. He followed her as she took the wooden stairs two at a time.

"Help me find the blankets. We'll need an armload. What if that were Dominique?"

"What if it was?" John said, and for the first time she heard something in his voice that was not borne of their bitter time in Sacajawea. He took her shoulders and roughly turned her around, forcing her to look at his face, which was nearly hidden in the long, loose strands of his jet-black hair. But his eyes were not hidden. John's eyes spoke his heart, and his heart was not filled with the anger that had consumed him for the past three years—his eyes told her that his heart was sad and scared. She was not accustomed to seeing fear in John's eyes.

"Don't do it, Marie. Send them away. We'll say prayers for them. Or if you must be stubborn, take them to the woods, to the grounds. Not here. This is where we live."

"She would be dead before we get out there. You see how far gone she is."

"Then let it have her. It's not our place. Don't let pride—"

Marie had never once wanted to hit John in the three years since she had allowed him to move into her house as her devoted student with the privileges of a husband. A ritual by his grandmother, one of his Chinook tribe's last remaining elders, bound them together—not any white man's certificate or covenant, as their neighbors had never failed to notice. The unconventional nature of their union had only fueled their neighbors' resentment toward the colored woman and red man who shared such a grand house in their town. John was now both husband and student to her, respectful most times and utterly insolent others. His unfinished accusation stung her heart. Pride! Did he really think that little of her?

"Yes, that's right," John said. "Pride, I said. And guilt besides, I think. But you weren't wrong for what you did. They had that coming and worse."

"You hush," Marie said, hating to hear him even speak of it. They had agreed to forget the events of that night, and it was dangerous to give the memory language. Speaking of past events kept them alive, and he knew that as well as anyone. By now, the trembling of Marie's hands was nearly violent. She couldn't say if it was because she suddenly understood the truth of John's warning or because of the child waiting for her downstairs. She had rescued a Chinaman in San Francisco in '21, but that had been different. That visiteur had been weaker, not nearly so dangerous. And she'd had no role in rousing it, not like this time.

John was right. And so was Fleurette, clanging in her head like a hundred fire-bells. But the child was dying, and Marie had no more choice in this than she did the rhythms of her heart.

"Get the blankets, John. Light candles. I'm going to fill the tub and fetch Grandmère's ring," Marie said. That was how she told him it was decided.

"You have great skills, Marie…but luck is a creek that often runs dry. Don't expect to draw your water there day after day," John said, his face so pained that he seemed to blurt the words against his will. "Don't take this on, Marie. I'm begging, woman. Do you hear? You know I beg for nothing." To make his point, he repeated his plea in his Chinook language, holding her face between his large palms. "Yaka humm. Wake okoke skookum deaub. Wake alta." She could feel his meaning more keenly when she didn't recognize his words, watching his emotions light his face while the foreign speech washed over her. She had to look away.

"I have to do it, John. I am responsible."

John sighed, leaning closer to her until their foreheads touched. She enjoyed the current of his warm breath, just as she relished the wisps of his feather-light hair brushing her brow. Tears smarted in her eyes. She shook her head gently, nudging him away. "I must, John. This is the cost that has been decided for me. Can you understand? Marie Toussaint cannot turn away a child to die on her front stoop. Not at my own house. Anything but that, you see?"

"My wife, I know you well. Your enemy, I see, also knows you well. This is a well-laid trap for you," John said, and she heard in his voice a grudging admiration for the visiteur, the baka with no name. He kissed her forehead lightly. John's next words, although they broke Marie's heart, came from a place more gentle than the place of whispers.

"I will do as you ask," her husband said. "But we both know it has already won."

The Party

…A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam's,

Born on the Fourth of July…



JULY 4, 2001

Seventy-two years later

ANGELA TOUSSAINT'S Fourth of July party began well enough, but no one would remember that because of the way it would end. That's what everyone would talk about later. The way it ended.

Angela didn't want to have a party that day. Maybe it was the lawyer in her, but she was too much of a stickler to enjoy hosting parties, brooding over details. Is there enough food? What if there's an accident with the fireworks? Will somebody have too much beer and break his neck on those steep steps outside? Angela didn't have the hostess gene, and she couldn't remember why she ever wanted to throw a Fourth of July party at Gramma Marie's house. Like most of the well-intentioned plans in her life, the party had grown into something to dread.

"Shit on me."

Angela's digital clock said it was just after six. The first guests would be here in less than a half hour, and she wasn't fully dressed. Still damp from the shower, Angela tore through her jumbled pile of shirts in the top drawer of her grandmother's old mahogany dresser, searching for a T-shirt that wasn't political enough to raise eyebrows and draw her into an argument from the start. TREATMENT, NOT PRISON. IT'S A WOMAN'S CHOICE. STRAIGHT BUT NOT NARROW. She opted for a peach-colored Juneteenth T-shirt a promoter in L.A. had given her last year, and she wiggled into it. Frankly, she'd rather be hosting a Juneteenth party anyway, commemorating the end of slavery. What had the War for Independence done for her ancestors?

Two clamplike hands encircled Angela's bare waist from behind. She froze, alarmed, unable to see because she was trapped inside the cotton shirt, her arms snared above her head. "Tariq?"

"It's Crispus Attucks, back from the dead to give you a brother's perspective on the Boston Massacre," a low-pitched voice rasped.

Angela's heart bucked. Jesus. She poked her head through the shirt's collar and found Tariq's smiling face behind her. She gazed at the deeply graven lines that carved her husband's features, at the unruliness of his bushy moustache splaying toward his cheeks as if it intended to become a beard, and it occurred to her that Tariq wasn't handsome so much as sturdy. At U.C.L.A., watching him dart through and around bigger, stronger men with a football cradled under his arm like a bundled infant, she had felt her juices flowing on a much deeper level than her juices had flowed for any of the men she'd met at law school. Much to her surprise, Tariq Hill had scorned hoochies and loved his books, planning to get an M.B.A. one day—and her juices swept her away. Then, as her punishment for letting her juices do her thinking, time had taught her the downside: Tariq's demeanor often mimicked his rugged look; unyielding, impatient, even unkind. He made her nervous. Not always, by any stretch, but far, far too often.

So, Angela couldn't help it. She let out a tiny gasp, even after she saw Tariq's face.

She hoped he hadn't heard her gasp. He had.

"What the hell's wrong with you? It's just me," Tariq said, no longer sounding playful. That was the tone, understated, nearly robotic. She hadn't heard this tone from Tariq since he'd been here, but there was no mistaking it. The tone was Tariq's mask, flung clumsily over his anger. Hiding everything he didn't want her to see.

Damn. She'd pissed him off, and right before the party.

Angela forced a bright smile. "Sorry. You scared me," she said.

Tariq's lips curled ruefully, and Angela saw his annoyance shift from her back to himself. His eyes were suddenly soft. Angela was only five-foot-three, and this was one of the rare times the twelve inches separating her face from her husband's did not feel like an impossible distance. She had to dial her head back more than fifteen years to remember seeing Tariq's eyes this soft.

"My fault, babe. I should've knocked. That's on me." He kissed the top of her head, massaging her damp, short-cropped hair with one hand.

Apology accepted, she thought. But were they going to spend all of their time apologizing to each other from now on, tiptoeing around each other's weaknesses?

Angela wasn't used to having Tariq here. Summers belonged to Corey. She'd come to Sacajawea expecting nothing more than summer visitation with her son, when she took a two-and-a-half-month leave from her law firm to become a full-time parent, rediscovering the person her son was turning into since he'd moved to Oakland with his dad. This trip was their third year running, a tradition. More like a reunion.

On Sale
Jul 6, 2004
Page Count
320 pages