Kathleen McCleary’s first novel, House and Home, reverberates with devotion and passion from the first page when we read about main character Ellen’s feelings about her house, her home: “…because of all this history with the house, all the parts of her life unfolding there day after day for so many years, that Ellen decided to burn it down.” Ms. McCleary draws the reader in right there! Raised in a home that later was mine when I married, I spent 45 years of my life there, so I fervently identify with Ellen’s feeling. Despite all the positives that came with our move, there was that feeling of personal possession just like Ellen had which made turning my house over to the new buyers a heart wrenching experience.
House and Home is about Ellen Flanagan’s marriage, which is at the heart of the story that lives in this charming yellow Cape Cod home in Oregon. Ellen’s years of loyalty to her husband Sam has led them all over the country to follow his dream of inventing THE next best discovery for mankind! Sam feels they need to live where the invention would be best used and so every mishap is followed by a new idea and a new address. Finally, Ellen convinces Sam to let them put down roots so they can have a family and she can fulfill her dream of owning a decorating business. That dream plays out in Portland in the very house that they now find they are forced to sell.
With his newest invention, a baby beeper, Sam wants to move again to a better test market, and this results in Ellen and Sam separating as Ellen can’t do it one more time. She does not want to give up all they have in their home, in their lives. The painful sale of the house is a result of Sam losing so much money on this newest project. It is at this point that the action really takes off, and you can’t put this book down as you live, laugh, and experience Ellen’s misguided, but desperately well intended, plot to keep her home after all.
Ann Douglas once said, “Home is an invention on which no one has yet improved.” Unfortunately, THIS is not the invention Sam made and so the house must be sold to pay off the debts. Ellen’s dealing with this and the new insufferable buyers is a fun ride and read. Kathleen McCleary does a splendid job of developing characters that the reader cares about and can relate to. The story is clever and funny, but also tugs at your heartstrings. The story contains delightfully unexpected twists and turns that lead to a surprise ending most will never see coming! This treasured first novel makes one eager for Ms. McCleary’s next book!