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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

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Ammie, Come Home -- Spoiler Analysis

Ammie, Come Home - Barbara Michaels

If the spoiler function doesn't work, I will re-do this.


This post gives my detailed analysis of two of the major issues I had with this book.  I've locked most of it in "spoiler" mode.  Many of you may consider it unnecessary nit picking, and maybe it is.


I've given page numbers based on the 1987 Berkley paperback edition and tried to add chapter/section numbers as often as I could remember to do so, for those who are reading other editions.


One of the issues I had was with the house itself, the second was Ruth's relationship with Pat.  Again, this is very tight analysis, which some readers may not be comfortable with.



 The physical structure of the Georgetown house didn't immediately arouse any concern, but by the time I reached the end and the whole resolution, I was rolling my eyes with disbelief.  So I took the time to go back and document as much of Michaels's description of the house as I could, to see if I had made a gross error.


P. 2 -- The houses across the street from Ruth's are described as they "abutted directly on the street, with little or no yard area in front."  They had extensive gardens in the back.  Later, P. 51 (Ch. 3)  "The house had been built at the very edge of the long, narrow lot." 


P. 9 --  Ruth inherited the house "last year."  P. 52 -- "She had moved into the house the preceding spring."  P. 105 (Ch 5/IV) -- Cousin Hattie Campbell, from whom Ruth inherited the house "passed on in 1965."


P. 17-18 -- Ruth had the kitchen redone, completely modernized.  The story takes place in November of the same year Ruth acquired it.  Sara moved in at the beginning of the school year, so presumably late August or early September.  Ruth had already had the kitchen remodeled, because Sara knows nothing about what it looked like when Cousin Hattie owned the place.  Where Ruth got the money for this is never made clear.


P. 104 -- (Ch. 5/IV)  The house was built circa 1810.

P. 109 -- The group - Ruth, Sara, Pat, and Bruce -- are walking back to the house from dinner and mention is made of the front steps.


P. 125 - (Ch. 6)  Bruce produces the original deed showing Douglass Campbell owned the property ca. 1760.


P. 128 -- Basement described as "small, cement-lined chamber."  Ruth says it's "too damp for storage."  But it has a big furnace, which would not have been original to the house.  No mention is made of ductwork to take warm air from furnace to the upper reaches of the house.


At this point in the story two other minor but significant things have happened.  Sara has had the sleep-walking incident where she knocked Ruth down and gave her a black eye.  This happened Saturday night to Sunday morning.  Ruth conceals the black eye with make-up for Sunday, but no mention is made of it after that.


Similarly, Ruth calls in to her job somewhere about having the flu, but after that, it's as if she doesn't even remember she has a job.  She never goes back to work, no one calls from her office, nothing.


Pat no longer has classes to teach or other work to do, and Sara isn't going to classes either.  They don't even give these responsibilities a single thought, nor does anyone contact them about it.


P. 155 -- (Ch. 7/III) Douglass Campbell's house burns sometime between 1805 and 1810, with him in it.


P. 156 -- Bruce says, "The walls weren't burned, of course, but the whole inside was gutted and the roof collapsed.  When the heir, who was Campbell's sister's son, moved to Georgetown from Frederick, he leveled the walls and built a new house."


But back on page 8, the previous owner from whom Ruth inherited was Hattie Campbell.  If Douglass Campbell's heir was his sister's son, that son would not have been named Campbell, unless the sister married a man who was also named Campbell.


P. 196 -- (Ch. 9/II)  The door/barricade in the cellar makes no sense.  Why is it there?  Who built it?  Keep this thought in mind. 


P. 210 -- After the confrontation between Bruce/Doyle and Pat/Campbell, Ruth and Sara drag Pat to the windows and shove him outside.  Sara remarks that it's a 10-foot drop from the window ledge to the rose bushes below.


P. 236 -- (Ch. 11)  Now they've hacked through the barricade/door in the basement.  The walls behind the barricade are stone, but the other walls of the foundation are cement.  the floor of this hidden part is dirt and hard packed enough to have wet, oily spots on it, and mushrooms are growing.  The stones of the wall are wet and covered with lichens.


The whole basement/cellar thing is inconsistent.


IF the Campbell heir who built the house in 1810 leveled the existing walls but built it on the original foundation, there would be none of the original foundation showing above ground.  Assuming the floor in the hidden area was the same level as the open basement floor, it would have to be at least eight to ten feet below street level.  There would be no reason to build the foundation an additional eight to ten feet higher.  That means the window Ruth and Sara shove Pat out of can't be ten feet above the ground.


Regardless how the foundation was constructed for the new house in 1810, why would anyone just wall off half the basement?  Why have a concrete floor in half the cellar and block off the rest?


The section of cellar that's blocked off is the part under the long drawing/living room that extends the full length of the house; the accessible cellar is under the dining room, pantry, kitchen, and utility "annex" where Ruth keeps mops and brooms.  The big furnace had to have been installed sometime after 1810.  Why install a furnace without ducts going to the main living area of the house?  How are the upper floors heated?  If they aren't heated, what is the furnace's purpose?  Is it there just to heat the dining room and kitchen?  That makes no sense.


There's a subtle hint that the whole haunting didn't begin until Sara moved into the house with Ruth, but this is never explained.  There's nothing in Ruth's personal background that would connect her to the haunting.  She doesn't particularly like Bruce, but she has no philosophical or moral opposition to Sara's dating him, and she certainly doesn't have the incestuous attraction to Sara that Douglass Campbell had to his daughter Amanda.


Ruth's emotional baggage is much more indeterminate.  And there is nothing in her relationship with Pat that seems relevant to the main plot of the haunting.


P. 12 -- Pat spent "last year" in Africa, just got back to the U.S. "this fall."  So like Sara, he's only been around for a couple of months.


P. 44 -- Pat encounters the "cold spot" in the drawing room, collapses while they're planning the séance.  Ruth has already felt the cold spot, but whether she felt it during the warmer weather is unknown.  (No wonder it's cold, if the furnace has no duct work to take warm air to that part of the house!)


P. 47 -- Ruth sees the smoke thing in a dream, hears the voice in a subsequent dream, then wakes up.  Sara had already heard the voice calling "Sammie."


P. 61 -- Pat puts the make on Ruth during dinner preparations before the séance.  She doesn't really fight him, but she's not terribly enthusiastic either.  His response is "We'll pretend nothing happened."  At this point, he was completely unlikable as far as I was concerned.


P. 134-135 -- Pat assaults Ruth again.

P. 137 -- Ruth reveals her past sexual trauma but without any details.  Was her husband abusive?  Did he rape her?  Did he make her do things she didn't like or thought were "unnatural"?  Did she never talk to anyone at all about it?  Not a single word?  She claimed she read about it, but she still came to the conclusion sex and children and love were . . . wrong?  None of this is discussed.

P. 138 -- After the assault, Pat just says, "I don't know what came over me."


P. 143 -- (Ch. 7/II)  Pat eyes the dog Lady "with disgust."


P. 215 -- (Ch. 10/II) Bruce addresses Pat regarding his being "already half-shadowed" and the scene where Pat is assaulting Ruth and Bruce walked in.  Bruce references "the women you seduce and the women you rape."  This was just so icky, and given the era the book was written, I could almost gloss over it, but not in the context of Ruth's sexual trauma.  Michaels was enough aware of this issue to make it part of Ruth's character, and I found her putting those words into Bruce's mouth with no qualification to be lazy at best.


I've already detailed my problems with other details -- Pat's car, Ruth's lack of a car, the treatment of the dog, and so on. 


(show spoiler)