your house will pay book cover
Crime Fiction

Review|Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

51205281. SX318 SY475  - Review|Your House Will Pay by Steph ChaYour House Will Pay by Steph Cha
Published by Faber & Faber on October 15, 2019
ISBN: 9780062868862
Genres: Fiction, Crime, Asian American, Literary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
four stars - Review|Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

“[A] suspense-filled page-turner.” —Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Sympathizer
"A touching portrait of two families bound together by a split-second decision.” —Attica Locke, Edgar-Award winning author of Bluebird, Bluebird
A Best Book of the YearWall Street Journal / Chicago Tribune / Buzzfeed / South Florida Sun-Sentinel / Book Riot / LitHub / BOLO Books
A powerful and taut novel about racial tensions in Los Angeles, following two families—one Korean-American, one African-American—grappling with the effects of a decades-old crime
In the wake of the police shooting of a black teenager, Los Angeles is as tense as it’s been since the unrest of the early 1990s. But Grace Park and Shawn Matthews have their own problems. Grace is sheltered and largely oblivious, living in the Valley with her Korean-immigrant parents, working long hours at the family pharmacy. She’s distraught that her sister hasn’t spoken to their mother in two years, for reasons beyond Grace’s understanding. Shawn has already had enough of politics and protest after an act of violence shattered his family years ago. He just wants to be left alone to enjoy his quiet life in Palmdale.
But when another shocking crime hits LA, both the Park and Matthews families are forced to face down their history while navigating the tumult of a city on the brink of more violence.

Your House Will Pay everyone needs to read.  It opens a much-needed conversation about racism and cultural appropriation.  Truth be told I went into this book with extremely high expectations and thankfully I wasn’t left disappointed.  The sheer impact it left upon me gave me chills.  The author has taken the very real story of a shooting of a black girl, Latasha Harlins in 1991.  It left me feeling bereft and tearful and rendered me utterly speechless.  Steph Cha has taken the well acknowledged thriller concoction, remastered and reengineered it and used it as a tool to make the reader glaringly aware of the very real cracks and fractures in our society.

Your House Will Pay is certainly a multi-genre chameleon.  We have a mystery to crack.  Racial conflict during the 1990’s.  familial ties that are put to the very extremes.  From the very first page it engages your brain – your emotion centres bypass gears 1-4 and slide straight into fifth.  It’s that power that this story radiates – its grip is complete, and its hold remains long after you close that final page. 

The book is told in dual timelines – from 1991 and 2019.  You’ll agree that it is a considerable time gap but what struck me was just how nothing had really changed.  The actions.  The assumptions.  The consequences.  It was all the same.  The targeting.  The pain.  I could feel the rage build within me.  How dare human beings be treated so differently.  Don’t we all breathe the same air?  Don’t we all deserve to have love and acceptance?  don’t we all bleed the same? 

Two families, both affected by actions of the past.  They are both tied together in an unbreakable bond that have their fates forever bound.  Can they move forward and not make the mistakes of their fathers/mothers?  Your House Will Pay should have everyone digging deep into themselves – thoughts on racism and morality especially.

Los Angeles is the backdrop for this gritty and compulsive tale.  How often have we clicked on gossip mags links and have been privy to the beautiful vistas of LA?  Clear blue skies, golden beaches, and model women and men.  How many people dig deeper and discover the seedy underworld?  The gunshots ringing through the most deprived neighbourhoods, our minority communities being misrepresented and not heard.  Steph Cha’s powerful narrative looks beyond assumptions and reveals the ugly truth. 

Our characters (Shawn, Ava, Yvonne, Ray, Grace, and Miriam) have all experienced painful exploitations.  I never found myself rooting for one side or the other, but my heart felt squeezed, the blood pouring through my fingers.  I wanted them all to find their happy resolution, but life is rarely that black and white. 

Your House Will Pay and the strength of the characterisation had me reeling from the sheer electrifying nature – to the extent it hurt to keep reading.  I genuinely believed I was reading an autobiography, the story seeped in realism and the multi strands of a web.  This book left me as a different person and I’m so grateful for it.    


steph cha 4 683x1024 1 - Review|Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Steph Cha is the author of Your House Will Pay and the Juniper Song crime trilogy. She’s an editor and critic whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. A native of the San Fernando Valley, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two basset hounds.

Steph Cha Website

four stars - Review|Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

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