Title: Your House Will Pay
Author: Steph Cha
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Date of publication: 16 January 2020
Number of pages: 304
Grace Park and Shawn Matthews share a city, Los Angeles, but seemingly little else, coming from different generations and very different communities.
As Grace battles with confusion over her elder sister’s estrangement from her Korean-immigrant parents, Shawn tries to help his cousin Ray readjust to civilian life after years spent in prison.
But what is it in their past that links these two families? As the city around them threatens to erupt into violence, echoing the worst days of the early 1990s, the lives of Grace and Shawn are set to collide in ways that will change them all forever.
Beautifully written, and marked by its aching humanity as much as its growing sense of dread, Your House Will Pay is a powerful and urgent novel for today.
Your House Will Pay falls into the categories of books you better going blind into. I mostly did, and the impact surprised me by its sheer force.
Ambitious, powerful, and brave, Steph Cha’s novel is a power to reckon with. The author squeezes the thriller genre and its core, using them to bravely explore the cracks in our society.
The novel is based on a true story. Are you curious? You should be. However, I will only give you hints. The 90s. Race. Turmoil. Believe me, you will beg for the why? and how? Once you’ve tasted the book and met the protagonists.
I find Your House Will Pay to be particularly difficult to review. Of course, part of it is due to the fact I do not wish to reveal much about the events unfolding between the pages. I have thought hard and long about the kind of book this one is. Is it mystery? Is it thriller? Is it contemporary?
Yes, there is a mystery (or my review would be longer!) Yes, it is a thriller. Something happens and triggers an awful string of consequences. Yes, it is contemporary. Despite the fact the book jumps from the early 90s to 2019, the message is the same, the echo still resonates in the present. If Steph Cha built her novel on a tragedy of 1991, she makes sure the reader understands just how much the past still has its grip firmly tied to our days. In fact, I found the contemporary aspect of the book cruelly frightening.
Different times, different families, and a striking connection. One of those threads built by the spiders of fate. Your House Will Pay got me thinking about what I knew about racism, but not only. What exactly does racism mean depending on which side of the pavement you are shouting from? Is justice possible when the colour of your skin or the country you are from are arguments in a trial?
The sharp writing is perfect to navigate the time and space. Los Angeles is a reluctant main character. The City of Angels is always in the back, looking at Ava, Shawn, Ray. But also at Yvonne, Grace, Myriam… What is the link? From the fire of this first night, when I turned into a young girl at the wrong place, to the cleanliness of a pharmacy, fogged with secrets, my instinct was to protect them all. The unfairness of what I was reading was burning my veins. I have never had to face racism (my time in Japan proved to be difficult, especially living in a place where foreigners were sparse, but I always felt safe. I was dealing with fear, not true racism) so my heart didn’t reach out to one side or another. I wanted both sides to find peace. All sides, if possible. I know again my rambling might sound so vague you are going to wonder if I’m on meds but bear with me. Your House Will Pay is always raw and excruciating at times. My skin was peeled, and I was left reeling.
The author undresses her characters, allowing the reader to invade their personal space and create a connection with them. There lies the best part of the book. Drowning with those multi-layered and intricate people forever stuck in the story of their life.
A normal day, a verbal incident escalating until the point of no return. Lives changed forever. No way back. All of this made even more painful by a harsh background.
This is a novel which reminds you. It teaches you. It doesn’t let you forget. It helps you find a way through pain. Your House Will Pay is achingly human.
Now you might wonder if I liked it. I lost myself in this read, and I emerged a different person, burned by events so far, yet so close to me. I highly recommend it.
You can buy the book by clicking on the cover below!
I would like to thank the publisher for inviting me to be part of this tour and for providing me with a lovely copy in exchange for an honest review.
Steph Cha is a contributing book reviewer for The Los Angeles Times and The Los Angeles Review of Books, and a regular panelist at crime and literary festivals. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two basset hounds. stephcha.com | @stephycha