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House and Home – Book Review

She had conceived children in that house, suffered a miscarriage in that house, brought her babies home there, argued with her husband there, made love, rejoiced, despaired, sipped tea, and gossiped and sobbed and counseled and blessed her friends there, walked the halls with sick children there, and scrubbed the worn brick of the kitchen floor there at least a thousand times on her hands and knees. And it was because of all this history with the house, all the parts of her life unfolding there day after day for so many years, that Ellen decided to burn it down. -from House and Home, page 1-

Ellen Flanagan seems to have it all – a handsome and loving husband, two beautiful little girls, a flourishing business, a best friend next door, and the perfect yellow house with a white picket fence filled with her most cherished memories. But when her husband Sam blows through their savings and uses a second mortgage to chase a far-flung inventor’s dream, Ellen must deal with the reality of losing her home. Forced to sell her house to uptight Jordan Boyce and Jordan’s quiet and alluring husband Jeffrey, Ellen believes she has lost everything – including her eighteen year marriage.

Kathleen McCleary’s debut novel is about family and what makes a house a home. McCleary’s lush descriptions of the Portland Oregon area, as well as the decor of Ellen’s home (filled with antiques and sunlight and personalized with hash marks on a door frame to document the growth of her children) are like comfort food.

As the novel unfolds, the reader is drawn into Ellen’s despair at losing her home, her doubts about aging (she is 44 years old), her grief at leaving behind the ghost of her dead child, and her struggle to discover what is truly important. Ellen’s story becomes more complicated as she develops an uneasy relationship with Jordan’s husband while wrestling with her still strong physical attraction to Sam. She clings to her memories of the house, contemplates burning it to the ground so that no one else can live there, and is forced to re-examine her priorities when an unexpected disaster strikes.

House and Home is a quick read which examines our attachment to “things” because of the memories they hold, and asks the simple question: What is really important in our lives? McCleary is an engaging writer who creates characters to whom most women readers will relate. Her sense of place is strong and beautifully presented. House and Home is an evocative novel that invites its reader to curl up in a comfy chair with a cup of tea and lose themselves in its pages.

Recommended for readers who love Women’s Fiction.

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