Tag Archives: Family Drama

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

“A bighearted gothic novel, an intergenerational mystery, a story of heartbreak, and romance, all crammed into one grand Midwestern estate.”Los Angeles Times

100yrhouse

 

The Hundred-Year House is a great sweeping saga about the Devohr family, and the seat of all their dysfunction, Laurelfield. Once a burgeoning artists’ colony in the 1920’s, frequented by luminaries of the time, the backdrop for inspiration, romance, violence and mystery; now sits decaying and forgotten.

Rebecca Makkai hints at the family’s haunting past with the first sentences:

“For a ghost story, the tale of Violet Saville Devohr was vague and underwhelming. She had lived, she was unhappy, and she died by her own hand somewhere in that vast house.”

Mayhem and mystery unravel over three generations of Devohr women as the house and its provenance looms over their lives and ultimately their happiness. Zee is Violet’s great-granddaughter, a Marxist scholar who is embarrassed by her family, and Grace, Zee’s mother and Violet’s daughter, and the current owner of Laurelfield. Both women grapple with trying to define their place, and their identity apart from the grim history of the family estate.

Makkai chronicles the life cycle of the house into four pivotal years: 1999, 1955, 1929 and 1900. With each year we are given a peek into the lives of one of the Devohr women. In 1999, Zee and her husband Doug move into the carriage house on the property while he works on book about Edwin Parfitt, a poet who may or may not have stayed at Laurelfield while it was an artists colony. In 1955, Grace is a newly married woman to a man her family despises, but she loves him despite this. Grace has taken refuge from her family’s disapproval and her husband’s temper in the attic of Laurelfield, the place where her grandmother took her life. While living there, the house and the grounds become a sanctuary for her but in reality it is a crumbling vestige of its former self. In 1929, shortly after the stock market crashes, Laurelfield is struggling to remain relevant as an arts colony. The staff and resident artists, including Edwin Parfitt, are desperate to convince Gamby Devohr (Violet’s son) that the estate is still profitable. And finally in 1900, when Augustus Devohr buys the land on which he will build his family estate or as his wife saw “it as a prison in the wilderness”, the story’s turbulent beginning is revealed.

In a mere 338 pages, The Hundred Year House, is at its’ core a story about a family whose history is colorful, ugly and full of secrets. It is an engaging novel that warrants a second read.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Type, Large Type)

Reviewed by Carolyn, Crescent Hill Branch

Key series by Nora Roberts

Sometimes family isn’t just about the blood that runs through your veins.  Sometimes family is also the bond you form in your most desperate of hours when it seems like all hope might be lost, and the love that grows from that, that could last a lifetime. This is what I often call my heart family, the ones who’ll stand beside me no matter what happens, not because we share blood, but because we share our hearts.

So, if you take that concept of a heart family, throw in a couple of Welsh and Celtic gods, cursed sister souls trapped in a box for a few thousand years and throw in the incredible writing skills of  Ms. Nora Roberts, what do you come up with?  Why that would be the KEY series of course.

keyolite

So our trilogy begins with three beautiful strangers who all live in Pleasant Valley but have never actually met, all of them twenty-something professionals on the verge of a major career change… or possibly a crashing and crushing end of those respective careers?  The first story (Key of Light) focuses on Malory Price, the art expert and manager for the town’s most successful gallery.  She knows her art and her customers too well, and quickly tangles with the owner’s new trophy wife (who, well, doesn’t know art) and puts her career and her future on the chopping block.  

keyoknowledg

Second comes (Key of Knowledge) and Dana Steele, the town’s highly skilled and super well-read librarian, and the go to girl for world class trivia challenges, who’s fighting both nepotism and budget cuts within the ;system’.  Third comes (Key of Valor) and Zoe McCourt a struggling but talented hairstylist, and warrior hearted mother to 9 year old Simon who has a jealous salon manager who’s bent on seeing her fired.

keyovalor

All three ladies are brought together on one dark and stormy night (yes, the classic line is finally brought to life in this series) for a cocktail party hosted by the mysterious Rowena and Pitt, an old souled couple who own Warrior’s Peak, the ethereal fortress of stone high up on the hill that overlooks Pleasant Valley… guardians of the valley, or so it seems. Shockingly, they are the only three guests to be invited, and there seems to be no connection between the three ladies at first, other than, of course their eerie and striking resemblance to the ‘Daughters of Glass’ a trio of demi-goddess sisters whose souls were cursed three centuries ago.

And therein lays the challenge of the gods…literally.  Can this valiant trio of women of women, in just one short cycle of the moon, find one of three lost keys?  These keys can, when brought together, unlock the prison box, and release the souls of those three trapped demi-goddesses before it’s too late and the curse lasts forever.

And what is their reward, just for accepting the challenge that they, at first, think is totally crazy?  Why $25,000 of course…each, upon acceptance of the contract, with an ultimate prize of $1 million for each woman should all them succeed in their quest.

And little do these three ‘sisters’ know that they are beginning the quest of a lifetime, (of many lifetimes and of many trios of women as it turns out) a friendship and sisterhood is quickly formed, and a family (of sorts) is born.

Enter Simon, the spitting image of his ‘pulled herself up by her bootstraps’ mom Zoe, whose spirit simply cannot be tamed and whose curiosity and energy knows no bounds.  Then there’s Flynn, Dana’s step-brother and his incorrigible beast of a dog Moe (if that’s what you dare to call an animal which is more wooly mammoth than actual pooch).  Flynn falls hard for, and ON, Malory the first time they met, with the help of Moe who has so much energy to burn he might be considered a hazard.  He’s a flirt (Flynn and Moe) and may just be more than Malory bargained for.  So, can she, the woman who’s planned her life out in detail and reset her plan yearly get passed the goofiness of Moe to fall for Flynn too. 

And Flynn is only the beginning.  He’s also one part of a ‘trinity’ himself, with two childhood best friends who all share a long history in the valley. 

One, Jordan, is the famous author and golden child success story of Pleasant Valley. He has a heart filled with regrets over a decision made in haste when he was no more than a boy, who, as a man, still pines for the woman whose heart he callously broke and for the love of the one woman he cared for, but sacrificed far too easily because he didn’t understand that real love, with that one, good woman (Dana) could cure any pain in his heart, even that of the loss of a parent.  Can Dana forgive the man, and risk her heart again to the boy who broke it?

The other friend is Brad, the rich boy from town and the heir apparent to the town’s lumber dynasty.  He fell head over heels for a woman he never met (Zoe) just from seeing her face in a painting.  Zoe, the poor white trash girl, who’s mom cut hair out of their trailer to feed her family, who never believed someone like him could fall so hard and so fast for a girl like her, much less the 9 year old that’s part of the package. But, alas, those are stories for the two sequels…ones well worth getting to know.

Formats Available:  Book, Audiobook

Reviewed by Tracie, Southwest Branch