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Irene Watson

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The Empty Lot Next Door by Arthur M. Mills, Jr.: Book Review
By Irene Watson   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Posted: Wednesday, August 18, 2010

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Ray and his family have just moved into a small house beside a strange, vacant lot where another house once stood, and where a huge wide hole mysteriously awaits the brave or foolhardy. Ray and his friends consider the empty lot just an exciting playground until Ray hears tales of how the lot’s house burned down years ago, leaving a girl to die in the fire. According to the neighborhood kids, the little girl will come out at night to haunt anyone who dares to jump into the empty lot’s hole.

"The Empty Lot Next Door" is the true story of a haunting that Arthur Mills, who changed his name from Ray, experienced as a child. Although his haunting experience occurred over thirty years ago, the more time has passed, the more Arthur has grown convinced that the ghost Candle Face was real. Continuing to research the haunting, he now plans to write a prequel about who Candle Face really was.

The Empty Lot Next Door

Arthur M. Mills, Jr.
Xlibris Corporation (2010)
ISBN 9781450072229
Reviewed by Lisa McCurley for Reader Views (07/10)

“The Empty Lot Next Door” is a tale of a haunting based on the actual experiences of the author, Arthur M. Mills, Jr., at about age eleven.  After a move out of the projects and into a regular house in a better neighborhood, Ray (Arthur’s nickname) has great expectations for a normal life.  The youngest of four brothers in a family faced with financial trouble and emotional distress, Ray instead endures an ordeal so terrifying, so confusing, that years went by before he could tell a soul about it.  This is the story of his visits from Candle Face, the girl rumored to have died in the house fire next door, and who relentlessly tormented him. 

But this story is much more than a ghost story.  It is also a story of the desperation, the pain and the helplessness experienced by children whose parents work long hours away from home, necessarily leaving them to fend for themselves against both real and imagined evils.  It’s about sibling abuse, and the scars that such abuse leaves on the victim as well as the abuser.  And this is the story of the intense struggle of a child to make sense of the world without communicating his fears and thoughts to the adults in his life since he doesn’t want to add to the family’s problems. 

I began to read this book at my usual reading time, right before bed.  After the first night of sleeping with the light on, I ended up taking off two afternoons from work to finish it which is all it took because I couldn’t put this book down.  The story is related in such a way that I could truly felt the author’s fear, pain and anxiety.  As a mother of two teenage boys, I could so hear the eleven-year-old heart and mind in these pages.  There are some places where the information is a little jumbled but it even furthers the style to that of a story told by an eleven-year-old.   “The Empty Lot Next Door” is gripping, frightening and well-paced.  After the last page I cried; not only because the book was over, but because I was so moved by the emotional experience this little boy had to go through.

I would so like to see “The Empty Lot Next Door” become a movie.  It’s a thrilling ghost story, but it is also so much more.  Since I live in Austin, I have decided to make a trip to the setting to see it for myself, and wonder if I will see Candle Face.  I’m taking a friend, just in case.

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