Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Book Club Discussion: House & Home

First, I wanted to let you all know that after your encouragement I decided to go to my public library book club and I still enjoyed the discussion. Not only that, but I also was given a copy of the book by one of the other members so I won't have to check it out at the library again! Now hopefully I'll really find the time to read it, especially considering how many people there actually really liked the book.

Now, onto our own book club discussion here. This month we read House & Home by Kathleen McCleary (check out my interview with her here) Personally, I really enjoyed this book. At first I was uncertain as to whether I'd like it because it sounded a little far-fetched to me. I also got the feeling I wasn't going to like Ellen because, from the description, she seemed like an impetuous child - burning down her house because somebody else had bought it outright? Puh-lease! BUT I loved this book. I got through it quickly and what I found was that, despite the cover's description, the book was about much more than Ellen and her house.

House & Home is about learning to distinguish between what makes a house and what makes a home. The two words conjure up very different meanings in my mind, and I was glad that Ellen was finally able to see that what made her house a happy place was not necessarily the things that filled it, but the people.

I thought the characters in this book were really well developed and I loved every one of them. Sam was one of my favorites, despite his flaws (probably because he reminds me so much of my own beau). Some of Ellen's complaints about him really caught me off guard because I have had so many of those complaints myself.

I also found that I really connected with Ellen on a different level, in that she reminded me of my own mother in some of the passages. As a child I moved often, and I have to say I reacted much like her children. I threw huge tantrums every time we moved and would hold it against my parents for months afterward. Here is one passage that I highlighted in the text:

"And then Ellen simply refusted to move again. After years of putting off having children, and working endless hours to get her decorating business up and running in one town after another, she was done. She wanted to buy a house and paint the walls red, not some neutral rental color. She watned to get pregnant and have babies. She wanted to plant bulbs and know she'd be there in the spring to watch them bloom. She wanted to make friends and reminisce over shared memories that went back more than twelve months."

I think this one passage so encapsulates that desire, after years of moving, to stay put, to have some roots. I know I've felt this way as recently as March when I moved back to Sacramento from Paris. I absolutely had every intention of settling down here, finally. And I still dream of owning my own house and knowing it will be a place I can always come back to.

This book was very relatable in many ways. It's more than a story of a house - it's the story of a family. I really want that to come across in my review because I feel that some people may avoid this book as I did at first, thinking it was too far-fetched.

For those of you who read the book, I have a couple of questions in the hopes to get a conversation started:

What did you think of the book?

Who was your favorite character in the book? Who did you relate to most and why?

Have you ever felt this way about a move or a house?

Were you surprised by all of the turns this book took?

If this book was made into a movie, who would be your choice to play Ellen? And who would play her hunky husband, Sam? (I stole this question from Displaced Beachbums, hope you don't mind!)

Oh, and I almost forgot: We have a winner! I chose the winner of the House & Home giveaway using Random.org and it chose kamewh! Congratulations! Send your mailing address to bexadler (at) yahoo (dot) com and I'll get it out to you right away!

For other reviews of this book visit:
A Lifetime of Books
It's All About Books
Books on the Brain
Booking Mama


Kathy McCleary said...

Becca: I really enjoyed reading your comments. I'll be checking in with your book cub discussion here all week and would be happy to answer any questions, too. (I moved a few times as a kid, too, so there's definitely a bit of me in both Ellen and her daughter, Sara!)


Heather J. said...

I wrote my own review of this book but I love your monthly discussions so I had to chime in here!

I really enjoyed this book, and that surprised me. I have no attachment to the house I live in (except for my son's room - that would be hard to part with) but the story was so believable for me.

The one thing that really clinched it for me is that the characters seem SO REAL. These people felt like they could be my neighbors, people I actually knew. I don't know that I had a favorite character - I was too busy being amazed at how ALIVE they felt to worry about choosing a favorite.

Becca said...

Kathy: Thanks so much for stopping by! Hopefully we'll get lots of responses this month.

Heather J: Thanks for mentioning your review. I totally forgot to check for other reviews online, of which I know there are TONS. I'll try to remember to add them to this post when I get home from school tonight. And thanks so much for participating. I really love to hear what you all have to say too :-)

Patti said...

I liked your review and don't mind at all that you asked the same casting question. Sam was one of my favorites, too and it's made it harder to think of someone who should play his character.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you said about Ellen seeming like an impetuous child in the beginning, and being worried that you wouldn't like her. I felt that way too. I read this back in June, not recently, but I remember at first thinking Ellen was a little nuts, hyperfocusing on the house to avoid thinking about the bigger issues. Our minds travel to dark places sometimes, but when she started to actually make plans to burn it down, whew! I couldn't stop reading at that point because I was so afraid one of her kids would accidentally be killed in the fire. I spent much of my reading time nervous about that!