Kasai, a self-described 'biracial feminist author with Southern roots,' focuses on identity and race, themes often subsumed by a plot that reads like a thrilling gothic horror story of vodou, sexual obsession, and insanity. The prose is replete with graphic descriptions of violence (primarily self-mutilation) and sex, offering disturbing imagery that is at once gripping and repulsive. This compelling and grim novel is a propulsive read, full of commentary on ethnic identity, mental illness, and power. Recommended for literary fiction collections, especially those focusing on diversity.
Kirsten Imani Kasai weaves a spellbinding tale in The House of Erzulie, intertwining elements of horror and erotica expertly. Purposeful discomfort abounds in this eerie novel that brims with masterful, uncanny language ... The novel’s strongest asset is its magical, breathtaking writing. Every page is rife with powerful metaphors and lyrical prose that grab the reader by the throat and don’t let go ... Kirsten Imani Kasai makes the macabre beautiful. She crafts a story that explores superficial scares while also delving into more complex topics like generational trauma and the horrors of slavery. The House of Erzulie makes you wonder what truly haunts our history, and how, if ever, we can escape it.
The volume of melodrama turns up gradually as the novel progresses, both in theme and in language, but the book is so absorbing that this insistent music is hard to criticize without a particular distaste for the genre. Gothic fiction and melodrama share a lot of the same geography; this Gothic novel sometimes tips the carriage as it rides, breakneck, over its emotional territory. But in return, the reader is gifted with prose ... The House of Erzulie privileges the spaces of dreams, imagination, and sexual ecstasy (oh, no, this novel is NSFW). It does not care much whether it’s taxing the reader’s patience, or straining her credulity, and at some point, the reader must stop caring about these elements, too. Kirsten Imani Kasai wants to take you for a tour of a particular house in New Orleans, and the best option is to accept her offered hand and go along, eyes open. I suggest you leave the lights on while reading.