the department of random publishing trends for 2014, I've found a
number of novels that incorporate the theme of fixing up an old house.
It can be scary thing to renovate a home--and I'm not talking about
costs and sawdust. Sometimes, however, if you enter such a project with
your family, you may discover some peace and happiness at the end.
Today's Reading On Topic looks at old houses. Warning: You might think twice about accepting that inheritance from your grandmother.
Family Drama behind Closed Doors
- Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo (William Morrow; ISBN: 9780062130549; August 2014): Lizzy, Elyse, and Isobel--cousins and best friends--are reunited to save their late-grandmother's Memphis house from the wrecking ball. As the cousins learn the perils of renovation, they also learn some family secrets. In the end, will they find a future not only for the house but also for themselves? An engrossing contemporary novel told from three viewpoints.
- Rooms by Lauren Oliver (Ecco; ISBN: 9780062223197; September 2014): Caroline and her children inherit their house not from Grandma but from Caroline's ex-husband. Although they can handle cleaning out decades of junk from the old place, they don't know what to do about the ghosts who use the house itself to communicate their feelings (hissing radiators, for example). Plenty of family drama on both planes of existence as all beings hope to be freed from their pasts.
- The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai (Viking; ISBN: 9780525426684; July 2014): Although not really a renovation story, this novel is centered on an old house and includes family secrets. As the younger members of the Devohrs family uncover their home's deep history, they begin to gain perspective on their own privileged life. The novel starts in the 1990s and moves back in time, so the mysteries of the present are eventually revealed in the past. A quirky family drama with elements of suspense and hauntings.
- The Hidden Girl by Louise Millar (Atria; ISBN: 9781476760094; August 2014): Breaking the mold, Hannah and Will Riley actually buy their rundown country house and set about getting it into shape so they'll be ready to adopt a child and start the family they've always dreamed of. All goes fairly smoothly until a major Suffolk snowstorm isolates Hannah in the house while Will is in London. With no electricity and spotty cell reception, Hannah is already a bit freaked out. But when she suspects that she's no longer alone in the house, she begins to fear for her life. This is a creepy psychological thriller.
- The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel White (Authonomy; ISBN: 9780007523580; June 2014): When Nowell and Vivian Gardiner moved into his late-grandmother's country house, hoping to renovate it for sale, the couple was looking forward to a quiet life in a small town. What they found instead was the body of a 17-year-old girl and a whole lot of secrets. This character-driven mystery reveals its clues slowly, building the tension.
- A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle (Signet; ISBN: 9780451469199; November 2014): Jane Hennessey inherited her California Victorian from her grandmother and hired her best friend and contractor Shannon Hammer to help transform the house into a hotel. Ruining her manicure became the least of her worries when the body of a real estate agent is found on another job site and Shannon is accused of murder. This is a fun cozy mystery with interesting characters, strong women, and maybe even a little romance.