Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay is an instant classic: a novel that sets fire to reader expectations thereby igniting a revolution hell-bent on change, using the embers to expose our flawed humanity and the ashes to fuel our souls. No words in this review can do justice to this novel. It should simply say read this book, read this book, read this book, because that is exactly what you must do sooner rather than later – READ THIS BOOK!
Spoilers exist at every turn of the plot, so please forgive this review for keeping those details to a minimum. You will thank me later, as this is a book that is best experienced with minimal outside influence. Your House Will Pay is the story of two families – one Korean-American and the other African-American – as their worlds collide intimately over the course of two tumultuous decades. Each family gets a point-of-view from one of its members, but readers get a well-rounded view of these families as a result of plot developments.
Grace Park, the youngest daughter of Paul and Yvonne Park, is the primary point-of-view in the Park family sections. Grace works for the family pharmacy in one of Los Angeles’ many ethnic neighborhoods. Her older sister Miriam refuses to speak to their parents after what Grace feels is a senseless argument over Miriam’s dating of a black man. Grace’s life revolves around her family in ways often witnessed in immigrant situations, but which is universally relatable to all types of families.
Alternating with those chapters, Shawn Matthews documents the goings-on in his family home. Shawn’s existence has been shaped by death and violence and after years of struggling against what he feels is a tainted system, he has finally found happiness and contentment with a steady job and a girlfriend named Jazz. When his cousin Ray is released from prison, Shawn is dedicated to making sure his kin stays on the straight and narrow, not just for Ray’s wife and children, but also for Aunt Sheila who has been through more than enough already.
An unexpected act of violence will shatter both of these families. As the truth comes out, alliances will shift and family loyalty will be tested in ways that would break most. The resilience of these two families goes a long way to showing how alike we all are, even as choices are made that continue to perpetrate patterns only visible in retrospect.
Your House Will Pay offers little in way of answers, but it is unique in the method by which is forces readers to contemplate the systematic failures within our most basic institutions – including but not limited to social, legal, political, and even familial. Readers will come away from these three hundred plus pages different than when they began – not because they have been told what is right and wrong, but because they have experienced first-hand the subtle shades of injustice that paint our everyday existence and mandate its landscape. William Faulkner famously wrote about how the past is never really dead, that it is not really even past; Steph Cha takes this concept and brings it into the modern age in a way that is both tangible and affecting.
In a period when crime fiction is struggling with growing pains as readers demand to see a more equitable representation of our diverse world within the pages of our favorite books, Steph Cha populates Your House Will Pay with a refreshing mix of cultures. I believe there is only one directly pointed reference to a character’s whiteness – and even that moment is justifiably critical – but never doubt that this is book meant for all readers, designed to induce self-reflection in every individual. Steph Cha might as well start taking notes for her acceptance speeches now because Your House Will Pay will be taking home many literary awards in the coming year. With that said, what I really want to convey is that you must READ THIS BOOK.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.