Bedbugs is the story of Susan, Alex, and Emma Wendt. When they find their dream apartment in Brooklyn, New York, they move in within a month—and Susan almost immediately discovers that their wonderful two-floor apartment is infested with bedbugs. Every morning, Susan wakes up from horrific nightmares to find new bites, but Alex and their toddler daughter, Emma, have not been bitten at all. Even after an exterminator searches the house and uncovers nothing, the nightmares and the bites continue to multiply. Susan begins to despair that she is going mad, until she comes across a mysterious book called The Shadow Species, which presents another explanation (and I quote from the back of the book): “she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell.”
Let’s start with the positive. Bedbugs was a quick, intense read, just what I needed to fill a quick break from Atlas Shrugged. The night I started it, I read the first 190 pages; I finished the book the next day during my lunch break. It was pretty well-written, and the plot was decently engaging with an only semi-predictable twist at the end.
Really the only thing I didn’t like about this book was the fact that I couldn’t relate to Susan at all. A lot of what she was stressing about didn’t make sense to me. First of all, the book begins with the fact that looking for a new apartment might not be the best thing for the Wendts in the first place, because Susan has left her job as a lawyer to “concentrate on her art.” Her husband has been supportive throughout the entire process and yet still she worries that he resents her because he isn’t getting to concentrate on his art (he studied art photography, but now works at his own commercial photography company, which photographs jewelry for advertisements). Part of my issue with this is that I didn’t understand why she had to quit her very well-paying job in the first place to concentrate on her art; couldn’t she paint or whatever for a few hours each night and on the weekends, and still help support her family? It seemed kind of selfish to me that she would feel the need to quit her entire job—why couldn’t she have maybe worked part-time, even?—just to paint? But I’m not an artist, so I guess I don’t understand.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
Something else that bothered me about Susan was that she never seemed very believable to me. As the reader, it was easy for me to understand what I was supposed to think about her—that she really wasn’t crazy, that the bedbugs and the bites were real, yadda yadda yadda—but when a doctor diagnoses her with Ekbom’s Syndrome, described in the book as “a condition, sometimes called delusional parasitosis, in which the sufferer comes to believe that he or she is being tormented by small insects, too small to be seen by the human eye,” I believed the doctor. I believed that she was going a little nutty, that the stress of moving and the guilt of quitting her job and then not actually doing anything about her art was getting to her, that she was possibly just not quite right in the head. I didn’t believe Susan, and that was sort of a problem when that’s the whole point of the book, right? So really, the twist for me was that she wasn’t actually crazy, and that the bedbugs problem actually was supernatural.
Anyway, the ending was good—definitely sufficiently creepy and kept me thinking about it long after I finished reading! But there was also a nice epilogue that wrapped everything up rather than being like “creepy things, more creepy things, EVEN CREEPIER THINGS, one sentence resolution, the end.” I hate those. Mostly because the one-sentence resolution is usually “bang, bad guy’s dead, protagonists look at each other, the end.” But Bedbugs was wrapped up very nicely.
I imagine I’ll probably read Bedbugs again someday, maybe when I need another quick read for whatever reason. I think the best read will be the first because of the suspense—now that I know what happens, it might not be as fun! But at any rate, I’m glad I read it, and thanks again to Kimberly at Reflections of a Book Addict for having the giveaway!by