The House Next Door

The House Next Door

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by Anne Rivers Siddons

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Their love would never be the same.

Colquitt and Walter Kennedy enjoyed a life of lazy weekends, gathering with the neighbors on their quiet, manicured street and sipping drinks on their patios. But when construction of a beautiful new home begins in the empty lot next door, their easy friendship and relaxed get-togethers are marred by strange accidents and

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Their love would never be the same.

Colquitt and Walter Kennedy enjoyed a life of lazy weekends, gathering with the neighbors on their quiet, manicured street and sipping drinks on their patios. But when construction of a beautiful new home begins in the empty lot next door, their easy friendship and relaxed get-togethers are marred by strange accidents and inexplicable happenings.

Though Colquitt's rational mind balks at the idea of a "haunted" house, she cannot ignore the tragedies associated with it. It is as if the house preys on its inhabitants' weaknesses and slowly destroys the goodness in them — ultimately driving them to disgrace, madness and even death.

Anne Rivers Siddons transports you deep into the heart of a neighborhood torn apart by a mysterious force that threatens their friendship, their happiness and, for some, their very existence.

New York Post

Author Biography:

Anne River Siddons was born in 1936 in Fairburn, Georgia, a small railroad town just south of Atlanta, where her family has lived for six generations. The only child of a prestigious Atlanta lawyer and his wife, Siddons was raised to be a perfect Southern belle. Growing up, she did what was expected of her: getting straight A's, becoming head cheerleader, the homecoming queen, and then Centennial Queen of Fairburn. At Auburn University she studied illustration, joined the Tri-Delt sorority, and "did the things I thought I should. I dated the right guys. I did the right activities," and wound up voted "Loveliest of the Plains."

During her student years at Auburn, the Civil Rights Movement first gained national attention, with the busboycott in Montgomery and the integration of the University of Alabama. Siddons was a columnist for the Auburn Plainsman at the time, and she wrote, "an innocuous, almost sophomoric column" welcoming integration. The school's administration requested she pull it, and when she refused, they ran it with a disclaimer stating that the university did not share her views. Because she was writing from the deep South, her column gained instant national attention and caused quite "a fracas." When she wrote a second, similarly-minded piece, she was fired. It was her first taste of the power of the written word.

After graduation, she worked in the advertising department of a large bank, doing layout and design. But she soon discovered her real talents lay in writing, as she was frequently required to write copy for the advertisements. "At Auburn, and before that when I wrote local columns for the Fairburn paper, writing came so naturally that I didn't value it. I never even thought that it might be a livelihood, or a source of great satisfaction. Southern girls, remember, were taught to look for security."

She soon left the bank to join the staff of the recently founded Atlanta magazine. Started by renowned mentor, Jim Townsend, the Atlanta came to life in the 1960's, just as the city Atlanta was experiencing a rebirth. As one of the magazine's first senior editors, Siddons remembers the job as being, "one of the most electrifying things I have ever done in terms of sheer joy." Her work at the magazine brought her in direct contact with the Civil Rights Movement, often sitting with Dr. King's people at the then-black restaurant Carrousel, listening to the best jazz the city had to offer. At age 30, she married Heyward Siddons, eleven years her senior, and the father of four sons from a previous marriage.

Her writing career took its next leap when Larry Ashmead, then an editor at Doubleday, noticed an article of hers and wrote to her asking if she would consider doing a book. She assumed the letter was a prank, and that some of her friends had stolen Doubleday stationary. When she didn't respond, Ashmead tracked her down, and Siddons ended up with a two book contract: a collection of essays which became John Chancellor Makes Me Cry, and a novel of her college days, which became Heartbreak Hotel, and was later turned into a film, Heart of Dixie, starring Ally Sheedy.

As Ashmead moved on, from Doubleday to Simon & Shuster, then to Harper & Row, Siddons followed, writing a horror story, The House Next Door, which Stephen King described as a prime example of "the new American Gothic," and then Fox's Earth and Homeplace, about the loss of a beloved home.

It was in 1988, with the publication of her fifth book, the best-selling Peachtree Road, that Siddons graduated to real commercial success. Described by her friend and peer, Pat Conroy, as "the Southern novel for our generation." With almost a million copies in print, Peachtree Road ushered Siddons onto the literary fast track. Since then the novels have been coming steadily, about one each year, with her readership and writer's fees increasing commensurately. In 1992 she received $3.25 million from HarperCollins for a three book deal, and then, in 1994, HarperCollins gave Siddons $13 million for a four book deal.

Now, she and her Heyward shuttle between a sprawling home in Brookhaven, Atlanta, and their summer home in Brooklin, Maine. She finds Down East, "such a relief after the old dark morass of the South. It's like getting a gulp of clean air...I always feel in Maine like I'm walking on the surface of the earth. In the South, I always feel like I'm knee-deep." But she still remains tied to her home in the South, where she does most of her writing. Each morning, Siddons dresses, puts on her makeup and then heads out to the backyard cottage that serves as her office. And each night, she and her husband edit the day's work by reading it aloud over evening cocktails.

Siddons' success has naturally brought comparisons with another great Southern writer, Margaret Mitchell, but Siddons insists that the South she writes about is not the romanticized version found in Gone With the Wind. Instead, her relationship with the South is loving, but realistic. "It's like an old marriage or a long marriage. The commitment is absolute, but the romance has long since worn off...I want to write about it as it really is: I don't want to romanticize it."

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
4.16(w) x 6.73(h) x 0.95(d)

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Chapter One

Claire Swanson from two doors up was the first one to tell me about the Harralson house. She and Roger have lived in the yellow Dutch colonial for years, far longer than we've been in ours. Claire is square, sturdy, and somehow comfortingly basic-looking -- low to the ground, as she says herself. Built for stamina, not speed. Those solid hips, impervious to her regular tennis matches and her clockwork morning jogging expeditions around the little park that divides our street, have cradled and spawned three boys. Nice kids they are, in their middle and late teens. The whole street enjoys them and employs them regularly for yard work and the kind of nasty, heavy work you can't get anybody to do for you anymore. They do it cheerfully, coming in with a twang-thudof screened door for Cokes and midday sandwiches andto use the telephone.

"Hi, Colquitt," they'll say to me, looming large and rank-sweating from a morning of wrestling our illtempered old power mower up and down our terraced front yard. "You look like you're painted into those Levi's."

Since I have known them through broken arms and acne and sullen excursions to dancing classes, and since the Levi's do look painted on me, and I am proud that I still have the long, flat thighs to wear them, I don't mind the familiarities. I would mind them, very much, from almost any other boys their age. I am not a formal person, but I am rather private.

Claire and Roger are old money in the city, and the boys don't have to do the work. Their parents insist on it. however. In this very New South city, Walter and I have noticed that the Old South element of it clings to the substantial virtuesof work, lack of ostentation, and a nearness to the earth that survives even in their manicured city neighborhoods.

"I don't see the point in all this plain downhominess," a vivid, restless woman whose husband's nationally prominent corporation had just moved its headquarters here said to me once at a ballet guild meeting. She was in linear black linen and Elsa Peretti silver on a swimming August afternoon in Florence Pell's legendary back garden, a coutured raven in a field of sundresses and pants and espadrilles.

"I mean, what good does their money do them? I know they have it-my God, Carl says some of them could buy and sell Fairfield County. But I haven't seen live-in servants or a driver since I left New York. They keep going to Europe, for God's sake.. if they go anywhere at all. They don't have boats. If they have summer places, they're down on that God-forsaken, potty little island you all are so insane over. I haven't seen one single piece of fantastic jewelry. They send their kids to Emory; can you name me one kid in this town who goes to Harvard or Yale or Vassar? They go to the grocery store. When they go out at night it's to that mausoleum of a club. Why have it if you don't have any fun with it?"

I suppose she felt free to say it to me because she knew Walter and I are not natives. And we certainly are not in the same financial league with some of our friends. But we are of them precisely because we understand the way they choose to live. It is our way too; we find grace and substance, a satisfying symmetry and a kind of roundness to it. We like our lives and our possessions to run smoothly. Chaos, violence, disorder, mindlessness all upset us. They do not frighten us, precisely, because we are aware of them. We. watch the news, we are active in our own brand of rather liberal politics. We know we have built a shell for ourselves, but we have worked hard for the means to do it; we have chosen it. Surely we have the right to do that.

At any rate, Claire and Roger Swanson are a satisfying unit in our world, and have been good friends to us ever since we moved here. So when I stopped the car at the mailbox on my way home from work that afternoon a couple of years ago -- I hadn't left the agency then-and Claire hailed me from midway down the street where she was walking Buzzy, their elderly Schnauzer, I didn't walk halfway to meet her, as I would have with some of the neighbors to whom we are not so close. I shouted, "Come on to the backyard and let's have a sundowner. Walter's working late. Bring Buzzy."

"I have some news you're just going to hate," she said when she had leashed Buzzy to the leg of the wroughtiron table on our patio and had taken a long, grateful gulp of the bull shot I'd brought her. "Mmmm, that's good. You make good drinks. Roger says you're the only woman in town whose drinks don't give him diarrhea the next morning."

"Walter made me learn before we got married. It was one of the conditions. Living well is the best revengeold Spanish proverb or something. What am I going to hate? Don't tell me . . . Eloise is pregnant again."

Eloise Jennings, in the gray Cape Cod across from us and catty-cornered across from the Swansons, had four children under the age of eight, two in diapers, and a front yard full of Day-Glo-colored plastic tricycles and wading pools and swing sets. They were whining, unattractive children who terrorized neighborhood pets and were apt to materialize in your kitchen uninvited, fingers in noses, looking into your refrigerator. Walter and I are very fond of some children, but not across the board, not as a species. No one on the street was very fond of the Jennings children...

The House Next Door. Copyright � by Anne Rivers Siddons. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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