Susan talks her husband Alex into renting a bigger apartment in Brooklyn: two floors all to themselves and the rent is cheap. It seems too good to be true and if you’ve ever seen a horror movie in your life you know there is a reason for this. Even Susan and Alex laugh and say, “Maybe the house is haunted!” Har-de-har-har!
Susan, Alex, and little Emma move in and almost right away there’s some weird business. There’s a funky smell, strange noises, and one night Susan is bit by a bedbug. She freaks out about this, who can blame her, and gets an exterminator in. However, no bedbugs. Not a sign of the things. But Susan keeps getting bit and she’s seen them. The problem is she is the only one who has.
Bedbugs by Ben H Winters is creepy on so many levels. First, the bedbugs. Dear Lord, I’m with Susan on the bedbugs thing. My husband travels and after I hear that he’s got to wherever safely I ask, “Did you check the bed?” If I had to deal with bedbugs, I would lose my mind. We once had a flea issue with our pets and I threatened to move out (they were biting me, not my husband, just like Susan). I was overly dramatic for sure but fleas are so gross! Plus, they carry the Plague, you know. I now keep on top of flea prevention. So bedbugs…yeah.
Bedbugs reminded me of The Shining, because the reader can’t figure out if the protagonist is suffering a mental breakdown or if something supernatural is happening. There’s plenty of evidence that Susan is losing it. She’s got anxiety up the wazoo. She’s left her job as a lawyer to work on her art. Her husband’s small business is their only income and she’s just made him move them into a more expensive house. She feels guilty about this. She’s also taking a lot of Ambien every night. Watching her mentally unravel is an uncomfortable experience. Until near the end, I couldn’t make up my mind, were the bedbugs there or in her mind?
One thing I loved about Bedbugs was how the women are the focus of the story. The women have the strongest presence. As much as I liked Alex, he’s more in the long suffering spouse role, much like Shelley Duval’s character in The Shining. Bedbugs is going to be a movie. I hope they don’t do the Hollywood thing and make Susan a man.
Bedbugs is a creepy, fun read. It taps into our modern neuroses. I had a few issues with some of the things at the end of the story but these were minor. I also wonder if Bedbugs will stand the test of time. Bedbugs are a hot button issue right now but will that continue? Also there are a lot of modern technological references that might sound dated in a few years. So read it now!