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The Housekeeper by Melanie Wallace
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The Housekeeper

by Melanie Wallace

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I have never read a book like this one. Imagine the absolute least amount of material, emotional, and physical support a person needs to remain alive, now cut that amount in half, now cut it in half again. Would you still be alive? Would you still be human? How long could you continue to be either one of those things? What if you do manage to barely cling to life, maybe even to humanity and deliberate evil is added to the mix. Can you still hold on? There's winter and not winter, evil and not evil, life and not life, beauty and not beauty, connection and not connection. I would say this is maybe the least American novel I could imagine, so I was not surprised to see that Wallace divides her time living in Greece and France. I would recommend this book to anyone strong enough to read about determination in the face of primal life forces.

I read a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks today that fit well with this book:

Kitchenette Building

We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,
Grayed in, and gray. "Dream" mate, a giddy sound, not strong
Like "rent", "feeding a wife", "satisfying a man".

But could a dream sent up through onion fumes
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes
And yesterday's garbage ripening in the hall,
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms,

Even if we were willing to let it in,
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,
Anticipate a message, let it begin?

We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.


Jamie could still let that dream rise, even though she couldn't yet formulate it, even though she didn't have the room or even the lukewarm water. This attribute made her attractive to some, repulsive to others. And how long could she retain the ability in the face of such deprivation? ( )
1 vote Citizenjoyce | Jan 9, 2011 |
Sadly I must say I didn't really enjoy this book. There are some nice descriptions of the bleak landscape of its setting, but too much violence for me. Actually, this book is mainly long stretches of nothing happening punctuated with occasional murders. Also, the author has chosen not to use speech marks, which I find extremely wearing to read. The ending made me laugh, although I don't think it was supposed to. ( )
  tronella | Dec 31, 2009 |
**SPOILER ALERT**

I wasn't overly fond of The Housekeeper when I was nearing the end. The writing was beautiful and stark, but the characters were shallow and hard to connect with, and there were some very disturbing and chaotic undertones to the story that I didn't care for. But none of that mattered when two pages from the end EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER IN THE STORY FELL THROUGH A CRACK IN THE ICED UP RIVER AND DIED. Well, that's not entirely true, one of them got to watch the whole thing happen and then wander off.

That ending sucked, folks. There is no other way to paint it. And in a book that I was on the fence about anyway....it made me feel like the entire read was a complete waste of time. ( )
  thinkpinkDana | Aug 15, 2007 |
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Jamie is a 17-year-old on the lam from being placed in a foster home after her mother's cancer death. She works for Margaret, an elderly photographer, in the small mill town Dyers Corner, where most residents are caught in a cycle of poverty and violence. Jamie arrives in the town, her grandparents former home and her mothers birthplace, in search of her roots, but she becomes embroiled in a nasty debacle after she frees a disturbed young boy who was lashed to a tree. A tender, tragic love story between Jamie and Galen, a trapper twice her age, together with a suspenseful pursuit story, brings the novel to a dramatic close.… (more)

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