The Keep -- Jennifer Egan
Danny hadn't really been in touch with his cousin Howie since they were kids, since The Incident. Years later, Howie buys an old castle somewhere in Europe (with plans to turn it into a hotel) and asks Danny to come out and help with the renovations:
But his tickets came the next week (blurry postmark)--plane, train, bus--and seeing how he was newly unemployed and had to get out of New York fast because of a misunderstanding at the restaurant where he'd worked, getting paid to go somewhere else--anywhere else, even the fucking moon--was not a thing Danny could say no to.
But The Keep isn't just a Gothic story set in a castle about messed-up family dynamics and bad feelings and guilt and (possible) revenge and (somewhat) unrequited love and an old Baroness and secrets and secret tunnels and drowned twins and a pool of fetid black water.
The narrator has a story, too:
Bottom line: Danny didn't know why he'd come all this way to Howie's castle. Why did I take a writing class? I thought it was to get away from my roommate, Davis, but I'm starting to think there was another reason under that.
You? Who the hell are you? That's what someone must be saying right about now. Well, I'm the guy talking. Someone's always doing the talking, just a lot of times you don't know who it is or what their reasons are. My teacher, Holly, told me that.
So when Danny finally spotted a light in that castle basement and realized it was a door with light coming in around it, when his heart went pop in his chest and he went over there and gave it a shove and it opened right up into a curved stairwell with a light on, I know what that was like. Not because I'm Danny or he's me or any of that shit--this is all just stuff a guy told me. I know because after Holly mentioned that door in our heads, something happened to me. The door wasn't real, there was no actual door, it was just figurative language. Meaning it was a word. A sound. Door. But I opened it up and walked out.
So, not only is The Keep a Gothic story with all of the stuff I just mentioned... it also has a narrator who's in prison.
Super. Super, super, super. Spooky and engrossing (I read it in one sitting), with characters who I didn't quite trust but cared about anyway. It's a great read.
PS. Booksellers take note, because you'll appreciate this: Remember how I gushed about how much I loved the cover a while ago? When I got my copy in the mail, I loved it even more. See that cut-out on the cover? Well, it isn't real. Looks real, even in person, but it's actually all one layer. So you can be confident in knowing that The Keep won't do that horribly annoying thing where the stupid cut-out rips when you shelve it. Rad.
[Edit, Later: Unfortunately, commenters have informed me that I was mistaken and that my entire PS was a Big Fat Lie. (Except for the Die Cuts Stink part. That will always be true, especially for those of us who do -- or have done -- lots of shelving.) Apparently, the bookstore copies ARE die-cut. Suckers. I have the only cool copy. Anyway. Regardless of Lame Die Cut, Good Book.]
[Edit, Even Later: Okay, I lied AGAIN. I just heard from someone at Random House -- the cover is, indeed, only embossed. There is no cut-out. Just the (very convincing) illusion of one. Hooray! I love it when publishers get the cover art JUST RIGHT.]