The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai

hundredThis was wonderful! I was excited to read it because I had liked The Borrower so much and as a friend pointed out she knew she’d like it from the wonderfully designed cover alone. I knew I’d like it when I opened it up and saw that the book was divided into four parts and that the story of all that went on in that house in the 100 years would be told in reverse chronological order. How fascinating!! Especially when you started reading and saw that the close to present day occupants talked and referred to quite a bit what they thought they knew of the house’s history, speculating on rumors and vague stories. In addition to being caught up in the modern story, I looked forward to going back in time to find out what really went on.

In the first part it is 1999 and Zee and her husband, Doug,  have moved in to the carriage house on her mother’s estate. Her mother, Grace, along with her second husband Bruce, live in the grand house.  The whole estate was once an artists’ colony when Grace was a very little girl, but reverted back to a private residence. Zee is a professor at the local college and frustrated by her husband’s lack of career trajectory. He’s supposed to be finishing a book, but he’s two years out of grad school and he’d better get a move on.  The book is about a little known poet, Edwin Proffit. Doug is thrilled when he finds out that Proffit actually once stayed at the artist colony and is desperate to find out anything about him. The fact is, he’s not really keen on his book anymore and is secretly writing series fiction (like The Babysitters’ Club) for the money.  When Bruce’s daughter Miriam and her husband Chase also move in to the carriage house it shakes things up.  This story plays out in a fascinating way (crazy secrets!) and, like reading a short novel, it concludes completely and satisfyingly at the end of its section. But then you turn the page and go back in time to the next section before Zee was born and Grace was young woman at the estate.

Layer upon layer is revealed and the format of the book was so perfect for the story.  Beautifully written and constructed, as well as being an engrossing story.  When I got to the end I considered continuing around to the front of the book again to make sure I understood the pieces of the puzzle and how they all fit together.  I can’t wait for my friend Melissa to finish reading this so we can talk about it!

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