All posts tagged: houses and homes

Helen Cooper talks about fragmented conversations, hidden histories in families, peering in windows, &other dark truths in her debut, THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR–plus miniatures and driving!

By Leslie Lindsay How well do you really know your neighbors? How well do you know yourself? These are the overarching questions explored in this fiction debut by Helen Cooper. WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS ALWAYS WITH A BOOK Helen Cooper & Leslie Lindsay in conversation From the U.K., Helen Cooper’s background in teaching with an emphasis on Academic Writing. Her creative writing has been published in Mslexia and Writers’ Forum; she was shortlisted in the Bath Short Story Prize in 2014, and came third in the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize 2018. The Downstairs Neighbor is her first novel. For more information, to connect with Helen Cooper, or to purchase a copy of THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR, please visit: Website Facebook Twitter Instagram ORDER LINKS: Support your local in-person bookstore or order through Bookshop.org This title may also be available through other online sellers.  YOU MIGHT LIKE: THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR reminded me a bit of Claire Mackintosh’s work meets Louise Candlish’s THOSE PEOPLE and OUR HOUSE. If you loved this interview, please consider sharing it on social media. Reviewing books and talking about them with …

WHAT IF THE GHOST OF MARGARET WISE BROWN visited you? THE UPSTAIRS HOUSE by julia fine delves into the delicate postpartum period, children’s literature, and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay  A terribly haunting and visceral take on the delicate postpartum period, featuring the ghost of children’s author Margaret Wise Brown. ~WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ When I first learned of THE UPSTAIRS HOUSE (Harper, February 2021) by Julia Fine, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Not only does it feature ‘house’ in the title and cover, but it’s surrealistic, feministic, and provocative, melding present-day with the past, a genre-bending exploration of children’s literature, folktale, literature, horror, and more. Truly, THE UPSTAIRS HOUSE is a read unlike any other. Megan Weiler is home from the hospital after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, her first child. Her husband, Ben is around, but not near enough, he must travel for work (in this sense, THE UPSTAIRS HOUSE reminds me a bit of Helen Phillips’s THE NEED), leaving Megan alone with infant Clara. Megan is physically exhausted and mentally drained plus, she’s still stewing on that unfinished dissertation, the one about midcentury children’s literature, specifically the life and contribution of Margaret …

Caroline Leavitt will send you a watercolor painting if you buy her new book, WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, how this ties in with the narrative, reinvention, going home, and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay  A thoughtful, incisive meditation on what it means to transform, following a coma, with intimate and complex relationships hinging in the balance.  ~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ New York Times Bestselling author One of She Reads’ “Most Anticipated Reads of 2020” Public Library Association Buzzed Book Starred Kirkus Review A Fall Title of Note, Publisher’s Weekly Good Morning America, A Zibby Owens August Book Club Pick One of Popsugar’s Incredible Books of August Bustle Best Books Out This Week One of LitHub’s Best Books to put on your TBR pile right now Caroline Leavitt’s books always inspire and intrigue. WITH OR WITHOUT YOU (Algonquin, August 4th 2020) is no exception, but this one seems much more interior than her more recent novels, and perhaps that’s because it almost has to be–one of the main characters is in a coma. Told with precision and insight and emotion, this is a literary examination of what happens when life is altered by a single tragic moment, a clear delineation between ‘before’ and ‘after.’ Stella and Simon are in …

Alexandra Burt begins Shadow Garden as a ‘thought experiement’: Does wealth and privilege sway moral corruption? Do we risk more if there’s more to lose, plus gorgeous prose, houses and homes, plus memory and tragedy

By Leslie Lindsay  A dark, haunting and atmospheric read about memory and twisted family dynamics set amidst luxury. ~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ I’ve read all of Alexandra Burt’s stunning books and when SHADOW GARDEN (Berkley, July 2020) came to my attention, I knew I had to get my hands on it. This is such a haunting read that feels claustrophobic and uncomfortable at every turn. Burt is absolutely gifted at atmospheric prose, psychological detail, gorgeous turns-of-phrase, and generally giving readers dark intrigue. Here’s the quick take: Donna Pryor has lived a life of luxury, being a ‘lady of leisure.’ Her husband is a successful plastic surgeon. Her only daughter is grown, she has a housekeeper who caters to every whim. She lives in a gated complex, her home is beautifully decorated. But. Something’s off. Donna is recovering from a recent hip surgery. Her memory isn’t what it used to be. Her daughter never calls. She and her husband are estranged. Her only companions seem to be the caregivers and housekeepers who manage her luxury neighborhood. What’s going on? Immediately, I …

Essential Reading? I think THE YELLOW HOUSE by Sarah M. Broom just might be. Displacement, rootedness, home and more in her astonishing story of survival

By Leslie Lindsay  ~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS| ALWAYS WITH A BOOK: SPOTLIGHT~ 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER 2019 JOHN LEONARD AWARD FOR BEST FIRST BOOK RECIPIENT & NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER I read THE YELLOW HOUSE (Grove/Atlantic, August 2019) with an eye toward memoir and a personal connection to one’s home, but this book is so much more than a memoir. It’s an examination of race and class, about the pull of home and family, and destruction. Set in a neglected area of New Orleans, the Yellow House was never much of a house in the first place–even before Katrina. But that’s not the point. In 1961, Sarah’s mother, Ivory Mae was a determined 19-year old widow. She invests her savings and little inheritance from her first husband into a little shotgun house in a once-promising neighborhood. She meets another man–Simon Broom–who will become the father of the author–but not for many years–and then he, too dies just six months after she is born. Broom takes the tale of this home and interweaves it with narrative …

Lee Matalone on her razor-sharp, elegant debut, HOME MAKING, about identity, belonging, mother-daughter relationships, her love of architecture, how she never intended to write a novel, and the importance of the line

By Leslie Lindsay  An elegant, perceptive, yet powerful debut about what it means to belong, to search for self within the constructs of a home. ~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS| ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ HOME MAKING: A Novel by Lee Matalone (HarperPerennial, Feb 18 2020) is such an intangible kind of read–it’s not fully a novel, not fully a memoir, but somewhere between. And I really loved this hybrid-like approach. It’s told in first person and doesn’t exactly follow the traditional arc of fiction, but it more meditative, quiet, introspective like one might expect of a memoir. Having said all that, this is a work of fiction (of course, like all good fiction, it’s often mined from the ‘real-life’ of the author’s experiences). The story starts off with a Japanese woman who runs away with a French man, becomes pregnant, then puts the baby up for adoption.That baby is adopted by an American family leaves Japan, and is raised with her adoptive family in Tucson, Arizona. This little girl (Cybil) grows up to become an ob/gyn, delivering babies while her own, a daughter (Chloe), …

Polly Samson talks about her enchanting collection of stories, PERFECT LIVES, how it was influenced, in part, by being a new mother living near the sea

By Leslie Lindsay  Eleven interconnected stories set in the bucolic English seaside town in which everyone is a little skewed and searching …for love, belonging, pleasures, and more. ~DECEMBER SHORT STORIES SERIES~ Lately I’ve had a love affair with wry, enchanting short stories that bring to mind nature and our connection to it–and also the inner lives of deliciously flawed characters. PERFECT LIVES (Bloomsbury, 2010) by Polly Samson absolutely fits the bill. Her writing is keenly observed in the nuances of family life and also the small town feel of this enmeshed seaside community. There’s a broken egg dropped through a mail slot, a boy who glances his babysitter at a circus on a trapeze, a struggling postpartum mother, a piano tuner, some gorgeous architecture, and more. The stories meander and trail along in a fashion that is both exquisite and nuanced, and at times, I struggled to find the connections between them, but characters do resurface, and like a true-life village, ‘bump’ into one another time and time again. Samson’s strength lies in details and observations. …

Lisa Tognola talks about self-comparison,wish fulfillment, the American Dream, the book she ‘had’ to write and so much more in AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT

By Leslie Lindsay  The all-American Dream to build the most perfect home comes crumbling down–and then up again–in this relatable tale about one woman’s obsession with home remodeling. Suburban mom, Janie Margolis is feeling cramped in their small-ish home with three children and no garage. She wants bigger and better and she wants it now. AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT (SWP, October 2019) is all about that quest for the best. Janie starts watching HGTV shows and dreaming of the most perfect place. Finally, she convinces her husband, Wim, that it’s time to move. Together, they start house-hunting. They have a long list of ‘wants.’ Nothing and everything is right. Finally, a real estate agent shows them a house on the ‘perfect’ street, it’s a bit out of their price range and a little dated…but…the location is right. Still, it’s not quite right. Wim and Janie make plans for a tear-down. After all, they have to have the American Dream, the house that’s ‘just right’ for their family. But soon, the details of building a home from the ground up become a bit overwhelming. Wim …

WeekEND Reading: Simon Lelic on his psych thriller, THE NEW NEIGHBORS

By Leslie Lindsay  What if the house you moved into has a story all its own? Simon Lelic talks about the ‘terrifying’ experience of house-hunting, how he wishes he kept more of his childhood books,writing advice & so much more… Dark, twisted U.K. thriller with undertones of paranormal and horror. I have such a soft-spot for tales of houses and so when THE NEW NEIGHBORS (Penguin Random House, April 10 2018) came across my desk, I knew I had to read it. Syd and Jack are a twenty-something couple seeking their first home together (they are not married) and when they come across the perfect London home, they make an offer. It’s low, but the owner wanted someone young. It almost seems too good to be true when their offer is accepted.  Once they move in, strange things start happening. For one, the previous owner left all of his furnishings, including taxidermy-ied animals. But the walls seem to permeate an odor and what’s with that stuff in the attic? Jack has been wary all along, but Syd is …