Book Review ~ House & Home by Kathleen McCleary

                              House and Home
Summary ~ “Ellen Flanagan has two precious girls to raise, a cozy neighborhood coffee shop to run, terrific friends, and a sexy husband.  She adores her house, a yellow Cape Cod filled with quirky antiques, beloved nooks and dents, and a million memories.  But now, at forty-four, she’s about to lose it all. 
     After eighteen roller-coaster years of marriage, Ellen’s husband, Sam – who’s charismatic, spontaneous, and utterly irresponsible – has disappointed her in more ways than she can live with, and they’re getting divorced.  Her daughters are miserable about losing their daddy.  Worst of all, the house that Ellen loves with all her heart must now be sold.
     Ellen’s life is further complicated by an unexpected relationship with the husband of the shrewish, social-climbing woman who has purchased the house.  Add to that the confusion over how she really feels about her almost-ex-husband, and you have the makings of a delicious novel about what matters most in the end…”

“House & Home” is the rich, beautifully detailed and heart-filled debut novel by author Kathleen McCleary.  It’s a story about a woman named Ellen Flanagan, her daughters Sara and Louise, her husband Sam and their beloved yellow house in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon.  We meet the Flanagan family during a very tumultuous time in their lives.  Ellen is the owner of an eclectic neighborhood furniture and coffee shop.  She has decided to file for divorce from her want-to-be-successful inventor of a husband, Sam, not for the typical reason of adultery but because of an inventor’s dream that just ended up costing too much financially and emotionally.  She agreed to allow a second mortgage to be taken out on her treasure of a house in order to put more money into the experimental stages of Sam’s latest invention.  After Sam says that another move is necessary for his plan to take off, Ellen decides she can’t take a lifestyle of uncertainties anymore and makes the decision to end her eighteen year marriage.  Unfortunately because of the financial situation she is in she will have to sell her house.  

Cue the up-tight, perfectly groomed East Coaster and her team of contractors who has bought Ellen’s Cape Cod.  This woman is the antithesis of Ellen.  She proceeds in making Ellen’s life hell by renting back the house to her for one last month so Ellen can pack up ten years worth of memories and move them and her two daughters into a house across town that she doesn’t care about.  The new owner is the thorn in Ellen’s side while dealing with the move and how it is effecting her and her daughters, especially her eldest Sara. At the beginning of the book Ellen believes that if it isn’t her living in the house than no one should. 

“The house was yellow, a clapboard Cape Cod with a white picket fence and a big bay window on one side, and Ellen loved it with all her heart.  She loved the way the wind from the Gorge stirred the trees to constant motion outside the windows, the cozy arc of the dormers in the girls’ bedroom, the cherry-red mantel with the cleanly carved dentil molding over the fireplace in the living room.  She had conceived children in that house, suffered miscarriages 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.”

As I read “House & Home” I was struck with the feeling the book physically has.  The cover is warm and inviting with warm yellows and gold tones in the bedroom picture and the lush greenery just beyond the windowsill.  The characters who live inside “House & Home” are very realistic and while reading, I am immersed in Portland, Oregon, enjoying a vanilla latte at Ellen’s shop “Coffee @ Home”.  Then I am hanging out in the yard between her house and her neighbor and best friend Jo’s house.  I became emotionally invested in what happened to these people; Ellen, Sam, their relationship, the girls and the family buying Ellen’s pride and joy, her house. 

Just when you suspect that the story will continue down one road, twists comes out of nowhere and make you second guess the characters motives.  As is life.  I loved “House & Home” and the familiar voice that came from the author’s story telling.  The characters could be real people facing these challenges today, especially with the way the housing market is panning out.  I enjoyed the imagery McCleary used to set the mood and setting for her characters.  The author’s own time spent living in her beloved Portland, Oregon came through on the pages of her novel about what happens when you think that the one thing you can’t live without is actually not at the top of the list like you thought it was.

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

I have included the book trailer for “House & Home” to help peak your interest in reading it even more.

Book blogger friend Lisa over at Books On The Brain  also enjoyed HOUSE & HOME.  You can read her review HERE.

Today’s Favorite Song

Dave Matthews Band is one of my five favorite music acts of all time.  Madonna, Ella Fitzgerald, Trisha Yearwood and Martina McBride round out that group but DMB has a special place in my heart.  My favorite music era of DMB is from 1994 to about 1998 or so.  Though I really enjoy their newer albums, I think that their older music just represents a certain period in my life that was fun, carefree and full of music and friends. 

My favorite song from that time is “Ants Marching.”  Though it’s one of their more popular pieces, it has so much going on musically and the lyric is representative of a young person, starting out on their path in the world.

My second favorite song from that time is “Say Goodbye” just for the lyrics alone.  It is one of the sexiest, romantic and amazing songs ever.

I’ll leave you with one of DMB most fun, danceable, happy and rich songs ever…. “Stay.”