Review: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos (YA)

Summary (from Goodreads):

On an unseasonably warm Easter Sunday, a young girl named Ivy discovers a chilling secret in the basement of the Rumbaugh pharmacy across the street from the hotel where she lives with
her mother. The discovery reveals a disturbing side to the eccentric lives of family friends Abner and Adolph Rumbaugh, known throughout their small western Pennsylvania town simply as the Twins. It seems that Ab and Dolph have been compelled by a powerful mutual love for their deceased mother to do something extraordinary, something that in its own twisted way bridges the gap between the living and the dead. Immediately, Ivy’s discovery provokes the revelation of a Rumbaugh family curse, a curse that, as Ivy will learn over the coming years, holds a strange power over herself and her own mother.


What an incredibly strange and disturbing book!

Jack Gantos visited my school and spoke of this book – his great-great-great (not sure how great) uncles did do something so odd that he had not heard the story of until quite suddenly Gantos’ mother let it slip one day while washing the dishes. When it came time to write a story, he took this as the starting point, and went with it. It’s the fact that this novel is based on reality that makes it disturbing.

So, this is the story of Ivy who lives with her mother at the Kelly Hotel, spends her afternoons with her ‘odd’ uncles at their pharmacy, and does the normal things the average girl does – dressing up, shopping, playing with dolls – until she discovers a secret about her family, her heritage, a family curse that gives her both comfort and unease.

Without giving too much away, I have to say that this was one of the most bizarre and odd books I have read. The ‘curse’ that threatens Ivy and her mother, on the one hand doesn’t seem like a curse – after all, what’s wrong with loving your mother? But what is disturbing is the lengths Ivy’s uncles go in order to preserve their love for their mother – that is what is downright frightening! The characters are well-rounded, the story is paced just so that one is surprised with Ivy, and we discover all aspects of the family history as Ivy does, and the end is satisfactory, even though I was hoping it wouldn’t be the end it ended up being.

Overall, I finished the book and I am sort of glad that I read a book that took me to a place I’d never imagined and to a subject that I did not know much about. If you want to get an idea of what The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs is about, read The Landlady by Roald Dahl – the subject matter is similar, and will let you determine whether you want to go ahead and read a full length novel about it!



2 thoughts on “Review: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos (YA)

  1. Love the review, I am curious. I love Roald Dahl, so am tempted by this. Is this similar to other Roald Dahl books? You know how some are really morbid but have a happy ending i.e. Matilda, James and the Giant Peach? Did this have a happy ending?

    1. Just to be sure … this is not a Roald Dahl novel. It’s very similar to short story, ‘The Landlady’ but that’s where the similarities end. It has a bit of a happy ending for the way the book is set up … it’s not your typical happy ending … it left me feeling quite unsettled. Having said that, it is worth a read if only to read something quite out of the ordinary.


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