Cover Image: The Call Is Coming from Inside the House

The Call Is Coming from Inside the House

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the e-ARC!

I find it hard to review personal essay collections, because so much of it is so subjective. Some of the author’s reflections about her own experiences are well-connected with the pop culture she explores, but overall I found there to be a lack of depth when she tries to extrapolate her findings beyond her own subjectivity. Most of McOuat’s analysis relates to a specific kind of white, cis, queer mother who owns a house, but she then attempts to make larger statements about culture in general, positioning her own understanding as a larger truth, and this didn’t really work for me. Many of the things she claims as fact, using a sweeping “we” to describe, only apply to a very particular experience. It makes sense to write based on personal experience, and to connect those experiences into cultural and social realities, but I wished the author took a more critical eye to her own positionality throughout because it would have given the analysis more depth.

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A few key-words are catnip to me when it comes to essay collections: pop culture; queer women; urban legends. Allyson McOuat’s debut essay collection was right up my alley (pun fully intended). It’s a welcome expansion on her piece in The New York Times and an essay collection I thoroughly enjoyed.

McOuat's essays seamlessly blend personal experiences with insights from pop culture, particularly focusing on themes such as motherhood, queerness, pregnancy, true crime, horror movies, bisexuality, patriarchy, and violence. Some particular standouts for me were “The Haunted House,” “The Man at the End of the Bed,” and “The Fortune Teller,” but, really, aside from one or two early chapters where I was likely getting used to McOuat’s writing style, I didn’t feel like there were any misses in this collection.

I tend to find essay collections very hit-or-miss and I think that the more episodic, memoir-like structure of this collection worked in its favor. It also definitely helped that McOuat is heavy on the pop culture references and her pop culture references align with mine very neatly. Her use of film, television, and literature is purposeful and thoughtful, and reminded me of Carmen Maria Machado’s writing, particularly Machado’s essay on Jennifer’s Body. At the same time, I could definitely see how a reader who was less familiar with the 80s and 90s media landscape might find it distancing, so this is definitely a YMMV situation. McOuat provides a helpful reading/watching list (something everyone should do, actually. I love recommended reading. It’s like fun homework.)

While the topics covered in this collection are familiar to me, their treatment is novel. McOuat's references to the supernatural and horror movies offer a fresh perspective on womanhood, particularly queer womanhood. Queer people have always had a particular kinship with horror and the monstrous, but the ways these subjects are tackled are handled with so much care and thought is a treasure. McOuat’s prose is exceptional: I highlighted several passages in my copy purely because I loved the writing. And it’s funny, too! Despite handling such difficult topics — postnatal anxiety, lost love, gender-based discrimination, victim complexes, trauma, pregnancy — Allyson McOuat is just so funny. I’d love to buy her a coffee and pick her mind.

This book is a delight. If you’re at all interested in queer culture, horror pop culture, womanhood, etc., I can’t recommend The Call is Coming From Inside the House enough.

4.5 stars

(Review will be published on 04/19)

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In this essay collection, McOuat focuses on topics ranging from queer motherhood to the loss of her mother. Many of the essays cover heavy subject matter, with references to popular culture serving as good examples to back up McOuat's observations on how our society views and treats women.

The writing style is open and honest, and whilst reading it felt like having a conversation with a friend. Many of the experiences McOuat shares will be familiar to many women.

I devoured this in a day and would not hesitate to revisit again later nor to pick up further titles by this author in future.

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In these essays, McOuat reflects and seeks for truth and understanding in her experiences as a queer woman, a daughter, and a mother, drawing comparisons to the horror and supernatural films and literature that shaped her. “Wading through the fog of nuance to reach the clarity of truth might be frightening, but I think I’m still going to go looking for it,” McOuat states in the prologue.
Like horror films themselves, the essays in this collection are filled with suspense and a foreboding tone and they were truly addicting. Topics include: queer-coding in film, motherhood and postnatal anxiety, lost love, gender-based discrimination, female friendship, victim complex, women’s trauma, the simultaneous beauty and terror of pregnancy, buying a house with a “history” (read: murder), and so much more.
These read like short stories and I would recommend them to anyone, really, but especially women within (or interested in) the queer community who love horror pop culture.

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This collection pleasantly surprised me, deviating from my expectations based on the blurb and title. I appreciated the author's insightful reflections on life, especially her relatable anecdotes about childhood and womanhood. The blend of supernatural elements with discussions on reality added a unique twist to familiar topics, making for an engaging read

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Allyson McOuat uses '80s and '90s pop culture to explore her identity as a queer woman and as a mother in this series of humorous essays. Some essays in 'The Call Is Coming From Inside the House' were stronger than others. Overall, I enjoyed it.

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I really enjoyed the tone of this essay collection and the correlations it draws between the female experience and the horror genre. Definitely for fans of In the Dreamhouse by Carmen Maria Machado! The essays are short and well-paced and explore themes such as motherhood, female friendships, queerness and female bodily experiences through the lens of horror and also in relation to horror films. I love this as a concept and I think it’s executed successfully!

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Firstly, thank you to Netgalley & publishers for the review copy!

This ended up being different to what I expected but I loved it. It gave some excellent introspection into pop culture, with a strong focus on 90s horror movies (my personal favourite, so I had great fun with that). It covered things from misogyny and biphobia to pregnancy and, with a twist, homeownership with a haunted house. I don’t personally believe in ghosts but it was still enjoyable to read about. All of it tied in to how she, as a queer woman, related to these on a personal and political level.

It was heavy but each essay was handled delicately and with an appropriate dash of humour. It provided a lot of insight, and food for thought. I especially enjoyed the conversation on storytelling and how memories can’t always be counted on as the years go by, making storytelling all the more important.

I’d recommend this to everyone, really! Especially if you are queer and love 90s horror movies.

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I don't read memoirs or personal essays often but the description of this book intrigued me so I decided to give it a shot. McOuat's style of prose is very interesting to read, I enjoy her methods of blending perception and reality in the prologue to make you wonder what was truly happening in order to build up the better question of why it's necessary to define an experience. The short stories throughout the rest of the essay as well give the reader an interesting look into her life and experiences as a queer mother going through hardships such as miscarriage and divorce. The pop culture references help a person to understand a point being made quicker but that is also based on if the reader interpreted such scenes the same as the writer. At times the author continues to reiterate the same points again through the different short stories which causes some messages to become redundant. Overall the book is still enjoyable, but I feel like some stories are so much stronger than others it ends up leaving the reader wishing it were more consistent.

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This collection wound up being something entirely different than what I expected based on the blurb and title - but in an interesting way. I really enjoyed her insights into life, both hers personally and Life on a larger scale. We seem to be of a similar age, so I found her references to her childhood and experiences as a younger woman to resonate quite thoroughly. I like the way she blended references to the supernatural and horror movies into her insights about the reality of being a woman. It offered a fresh perspective on topics that are covered in so many essay books these days, and made for an unusual and engaging read. I really enjoyed this one.

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I think I may be biased against this because I am currently in graduate school specifically looking at queer theory and analysis, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

The thing that I found irked me with this book is the way that McOuat makes very casual assumptions about the queer nature of things without really backing that up. For example, in the first official essay after the prologue, she talks about the queer-coding in Elsa. The first evidence she uses is that of what the magical troll says about her magic– if she was born with it or cursed. She ties this to nature or nurture with queerness to argue Elsa is queer-coded. Her earlier discussion of the Hays-Code, however, brings up that queer characters were over-the-top queer, and punished for such at the end of the film. The tie to nature-nurture is a claim that, if I had made during my undergraduate work, would have received a "this seems like a stretch" from a professor. I think there are multiple ways she could have gone about this analysis that would've been stronger, but she bases a lot of her claims on analysis that isn't fully substantiated. She could have used the Hays-Code to talk about the subtleties of Elsa's portrayal, maybe arguing that she didn't need a bad ending because she was not nearly as clear of a queer character. She also could have focused more on the reception of Elsa as a queer icon because her story was not centered on romance, or with the uptick in fan engagement after Frozen 2 surrounding her and a minor female character. Even as she gets to stronger arguments, the weaker analysis brings down her overall point. It distracts from what matters about McOuat's writing here.

Basically, McOuat is a lovely writer. Her prose flows, and there were times where I loved highlighting quotes for memory. But she hinges a lot of what she's writing about on these filmsy analytical moves, instead of on her own feelings and impressions. McOuat straddled the line between media analysis and personal anecdote/feelings, with personal anecdote/feelings being the stronger of the two. Both were weaker, though, for the attempt at both.

I think I am certainly more picky due to my background, and likely audiences looking for a memoir through essays (though they are referred to as short stories, which feels a bit inaccurate) and meditation on identity and personal experience will enjoy this. I just would've preferred either no analysis, or a strengthened analysis.

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McOuat writes about many deeply intimate issues, including pregnancy, anxiety, divorce, and bisexuality, which can be difficult to approach. She invites readers in with a mix of her own experiences and cultural artifacts that offered a way to balance the vulnerability while also calling attention to it. As someone who loves horror and grew up in the 90s, I had no trouble appreciating many of the references used (though some were ones I wasn’t familiar with). The bibliography included was also great.

As with many collections of essays, this one has a few that stand out in my memory (The Haunted House, The Man at the End of the Bed, The Fortune Teller) and truly enjoyed. However, the others either left no real imprint, felt repetitive, or had something I actively disliked. For me, these latter outweighed the former, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the book to anyone to read.

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"The Call is Coming from Inside the House" is in essence a memoir told through short stories. The stories are not always chronological, but they fit together fairly seamlessly. The stories frequently reference movies, especially horror movies or movies that feature queer characters, especially bisexual characters (implied/assumed or established), and the lessons that can be learned from those movies or the assumptions about women, especially queer women, that are reflected in those movies, and how those lessons or assumptions have manifested in the author's life as a daughter, mother, lover, and as a queer woman. She addresses how traumatic a difficult pregnancy can be for a woman/expectant mother; experiences of abuse or victimization; and assumptions about her sexuality and what kind of person that implies she is, as well as more prosaic experiences such as babysitting, home ownership, divorce, and grief. She discusses the importance of storytelling and how our memory of events does not necessarily accurately reflect those events. She talks about how her grandmother became a fortune teller to support herself and her children after her husband died in a workplace accident, and how she, the author, used reading tarot cards as a way to combat her social anxiety (and obtain free drinks) while in college. "The Call is Coming from Inside the House" is a very interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking book; well worth reading.

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Thank you #Netgalley for this advanced copy!

What a raw and honest recollection of stories from Allyson. The book bounces from different stories she has experienced from being a mom and the impact that placed on her. Also loved the supernatural moments and what has happened in their home/homes they looked at.

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There are some interesting and engaging stories here and some of the writing is quite beautiful. I understand the need to embrace your identity and perhaps using it to centre some of the topics covered but the author repeats herself a lot in terms of her identity as a queer woman and I don’t know that it added much in terms of the reader’s experience.

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I enjoy reading collective essays and this was great to read aspects of queer influence and upbringing, There were points that I felt didn't belong in this collection but overall I enjoyed being brought into the upbringing of McQuat.

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I believe this book is not quite as I imagined it would be. It’s well written, but as I came upon 50% into the book, it was dragging on for me. I understand the experiences the author has faced, but I’m not sure if they qualify for an entire book. It was not as queer or focused on movies as I thought it might be from the description. It was really focused on pregnancy more than anything else and being stuck in bed. My favorite essay was the author as a teen and the scary car scene. However, this chapter would have benefitted from a footnote as I did not know about of the actual real life victims listed and had to keep stopping my reading to go google the victims.

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