REVIEW: OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES, BY ABBI WAXMAN

 

At any given moment in other people’s houses, you can find…repressed hopes and dreams…moments of unexpected joy…someone making love on the floor to a man who is most definitely not her husband…

As the longtime local carpool mom, Frances Bloom is sometimes an unwilling witness to her neighbors’ private lives. She knows her cousin is hiding her desire for another baby from her spouse, Bill Horton’s wife is mysteriously missing, and now this…

After the shock of seeing Anne Porter in all her extramarital glory, Frances vows to stay in her own lane. But that’s a notion easier said than done when Anne’s husband throws her out a couple of days later. The repercussions of the affair reverberate through the four carpool families–and Frances finds herself navigating a moral minefield that could make or break a marriage.

My Thoughts: In this bold peek behind closed doors, Other People’s Houses reveals the flaws, the foibles, and the moral failings in an LA area neighborhood.

Frances Bloom is the main voice, although we are offered multiple narrators. She is the good mom, the patient one who carpools all the neighborhood kids. But is she truly good, or is she making up for her own failings?

Anne Porter’s faux pas turns the neighborhood from a cozy little enclave to a clash of temperaments and values within the other houses, as each of them has to figure out whose side they’re on.

I liked how the kids were not cardboard versions but were fleshed out in a way that allowed us to connect with them. Ava, the fourteen-year-old, was not just an annoying, eye-rolling caricature, but had ideas of her own that showed her developing personhood. She could also be helpful and thoughtful, just like a real girl who has grown up with structure and love, finding her own true self.

As more and more of the closely guarded secrets are revealed, I especially loved the dialogue, the banter, and even the sometimes coarse language that left me feeling as if these were people I knew. An irreverent, hilarious, and often sad tale of how life can go so wrong, this book also showed us characters who pulled themselves together despite their problems. They were an example for the others, just like real people can be leaders of the pack. In the final moments, after the crises within some of the families settled down, there was a Christmas get-together. I liked this quote: “The neighborhood would be together again, in all its imperfect, fractured, embarrassing glory.” 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

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SERENDIPITOUS FRIDAY: BOOK BEGINNINGS/FRIDAY 56 – “FRIENDSWOOD”

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Welcome to some bookish fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

If you have been wanting to participate, but haven’t yet tried, now is the time!

What better way to spend a Friday?

As we gather around to chat about our books,  I’d like to share a book I’ve been reading:  an ARC, from Amazon Vine, called Friendswood, by Rene Steinke.

 

 

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Beginning:  (1993) (Rosemont)

One of those evenings, before they knew, Lee walked past the Clarks’ ranch house, as sunlight shattered through the leaves overhead.  The fan of a lawn sprinkler bowed down again in the green yard, and a few drops dotted her shoulder.  Jess ran in front, dark hair splayed against the narrow back of her shirt, sneakers snapping against the concrete.

***

Beginning:  (2007) (Lee)

It was sunny again for the first time in days, and light mirrored off all the wet surfaces.  Post-storm, people drove slowly, though traffic was sparse.  Here and there fallen branches and toppled road signs lay on either side of the road, but things were getting back to normal.

***

56:  (Lee)

“You’ve been going out there again, haven’t you?” said Rush.  “God-damnit, they buried that poison.  And what good does it do you?  Probably dangerous even being out there all by yourself.”  She stood up to turn on the radio on the bureau.

***

Blurb:  A big, moving novel of one tight-knit Texas community and the events that alter its residents’ lives forever.

Friendswood, Texas, is a small Gulf Coast town of church suppers, oil rigs on the horizon, hurricane weather, and high school football games. When tragedy rears its head with an industrial leak that kills and sickens residents, it pulls on the common thread that runs through the community, intensifying everything. From a confused fifteen-year-old girl beset by visions, to a high school football star tormented by his actions, to a mother galvanized by the death of her teen daughter, to a morally bankrupt father trying to survive his mistakes, René Steinke explores what happens when families are trapped in the ambiguity of history’s missteps—when the actions of a few change the lives and well-being of many.

Driving the narrative powerfully forward is the suspenseful question of the fates of four Friendswood families, and Steinke’s striking insight and empathy. Inspired in part by the town where she herself grew up, this layered, propulsive, psychologically complex story is poignant proof that extreme public events, as catastrophic as they might seem, must almost always pale in comparison to the intimate personal experiences and motivations of grief, love, lust, ambition, anxiety, and regret.

***

What do you think?  Do these lines capture your interest?  I am loving this story and finding myself wrapped up in the lives of these characters.  I hope you’ll stop by and share your thoughts.

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