Friday, January 21, 2011

Houses, a Novel by Cynthia Rogers Parks

Reviewed for Review the Book
Publisher Leigh Walker Books

This simply titled book was a pleasant surprise to me. It is written as a memoir and I had to keep reminding myself that this is a novel, not Cynthia Rogers Park's memoir, although I'm sure there is a great deal of herself in the book. "Houses" is the memoir of Lacey Winter. It is also a snapshot of historic moments of the U.S. through the 1950s, 60's, 70's and on toward the millennium; the growth of changes after WWII, through the Viet Nam era, the deaths of President John F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. A time she measures by the houses she lived in.

Everyone has a method of recording the events in their lives. To me, it is generally the ages of my children, but after reading this memorable book, I find I identify with Lacey's memories of time, attached to which house she was living in. It seemed only right that she would eventually work in real estate. Lacey's story begins as a child living with her Grandmother and her younger sister with very rare visits from her father. Her mother died in an accident and he is "looking for a new mother". From this point on, Lacey seems to spend her life moving from house to house, sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes bad. Sometimes the houses are "happy" and sometimes they are not. All houses take on a personality that she tries to imprint herself on, but many times the houses imprint her. Sometimes she is upgrading, sometimes downgrading, according to her life and the turns of national economy.

In the real time period of this book, life sped up so fast, it was hard to know what would be thrown at you next. Segregation was still in effect, women were on the edge of being recognized, but these and wars, and yes, even the hippie movement all meant huge changes in the country. And for every change, another house, another hopeful start. I feel that the author has done a very good, tightly written novel of so many opposing factors, keeping the theme of houses commensurate with life. For many of us our home or lack of home, even shared home was our life. This would be a good book club read deserving discussion, as well as for individual readers who grew up in this era. I found the book to have a very intriguing style and a believable storyline. I liked the book very much. It covers a lot of ground and demonstrates a definite slice of life in the last half of the twentieth century, making it real.

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