#ARC #Review: The Hundred-Year House, by @RebeccaMakkai

The Hundred-Year HouseTitle: The Hundred-Year House
Author: Rebecca Makkai
Rating: 5/5 stars

“Meet the Devohrs: Zee, a Marxist literary scholar who detests her parents’ wealth but nevertheless finds herself living in their carriage house; Gracie, her mother, who claims she can tell your lot in life by looking at your teeth; and Bruce, her step-father, stockpiling supplies for the Y2K apocalypse and perpetually late for his tee time. Then there’s Violet Devohr, Zee’s great-grandmother, who they say took her own life somewhere in the vast house, and whose massive oil portrait still hangs in the dining room.

Violet’s portrait was known to terrify the artists who resided at the house from the 1920s to the 1950s, when it served as the Laurelfield Arts Colony—and this is exactly the period Zee’s husband, Doug, is interested in. An out-of-work academic whose only hope of a future position is securing a book deal, Doug is stalled on his biography of the poet Edwin Parfitt, once in residence at the colony. All he needs to get the book back on track—besides some motivation and self-esteem—is access to the colony records, rotting away in the attic for decades. But when Doug begins to poke around where he shouldn’t, he finds Gracie guards the files with a strange ferocity, raising questions about what she might be hiding. The secrets of the hundred-year house would turn everything Doug and Zee think they know about her family on its head—that is, if they were to ever uncover them.

In this brilliantly conceived, ambitious, and deeply rewarding novel, Rebecca Makkai unfolds a generational saga in reverse, leading the reader back in time on a literary scavenger hunt as we seek to uncover the truth about these strange people and this mysterious house. With intelligence and humor, a daring narrative approach, and a lovingly satirical voice, Rebecca Makkai has crafted an unforgettable novel about family, fate and the incredible surprises life can offer.” (description from Goodreads)

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*This is a review of an advance reading copy.*

Earlier this year, I discovered Rebecca Makkai through her debut novel, The Borrower. That book became a favorite of mine for many reasons. With The Hundred-Year House, I knew I was in for another great reading experience, though I wasn’t ready to encounter such a change from Makkai’s first book. On top of that, this book is split up into a few sections. Each section has it’s own style, characters, and time period to convey to the reader. This all, for me, shows how diverse a writer Makkai is and it’s refreshing when many writers find one style and they stick to it (which isn’t a bad thing, but changing it up is always welcomed when it can be accomplished so well.)

As I mentioned, this book is set up in a few “parts” (three parts and a short prologue). This isn’t uncommon, though, the story takes place over 100 years and each new section brings the story back in time. The fact that this story is told by going back in time was interesting to me and I wasn’t sure how it’d work for me. It took a bit for me to see what the author was doing with that format, and it was definitely the right choice. It was a unique way to reveal the big picture and the missing pieces in the puzzle.

There’s a lot going on in the book that it’d be hard to pick it all apart here, and I’d rather leave it for the readers to discover on their own anyway. This book is filled with intriguing characters, many intersecting lives across generations, and some mystery that’s only revealed through this journey back in time. And the characters aren’t just the humans. The house, and the Laurelfield estate, itself has as much a role as a character as it does as a place for this story to take place. The bleeding together of Doug and Zee’s struggles, into Grace’s marriage issues, then the telling of a period when Laurelfield was an artist’s colony before all of that, makes this story stand out to me as a complex but rewarding read that’ll be one of few for me to go back and reread. With the knowledge I have after finishing, I’m eager to see what I pick up on from what came before it.

Makkai’s books will be on the top of my reading list from now on. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

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You can grab a copy of this book (pre-order at the time of posting) from:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo


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About the Author:

Rebecca Makkai is a Chicago-based writer whose second novel,The Hundred-Year House, will be available from Viking/Penguin in summer, 2014. Her first novel, The Borrower, is a Booklist Top Ten Debut, an Indie Next pick, an O Magazine selection, and one of Chicago Magazine‘s choices for best fiction of 2011. Her short fiction has been chosen for The Best American Short Stories for four consecutive years (2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008), and appears regularly in journals like Harper’sTin HousePloughshares, andNew England Review.

Find out more:

3 responses to “#ARC #Review: The Hundred-Year House, by @RebeccaMakkai

  1. Pingback: 2014, A Year in Review(s) | A Life Among The Pages

  2. Pingback: #NewRelease: Music for Wartime, by @RebeccaMakkai | A Life Among The Pages

  3. Pingback: New Release: The Great Believers, by @RebeccaMakkai | A Life Among The Pages

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