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Keeping the House: A Novel by Ellen Baker
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Keeping the House: A Novel

by Ellen Baker

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Well written and engrossing, this book had all the makings to be a five star winner. I was immediately drawn in by an uncanny parallel to my own life in the Dolly and Byron characters but the story itself, while interesting just fell short of my expectations. There was very little about the house which the story was supposed to be based on. Still an easy to read story of one family���s demise and another���s struggle to hold on. ( )
  exbrook | Feb 11, 2014 |
This book is very hot and cold for me.

I appreciate the historical fiction component of this book. It's interesting to hear about roles of particular groups--women, vets, daughters, moms. But I do find all the decade switching to be a little distracting and difficult to follow ( )
  knittinkitties | Jun 11, 2013 |
Ok, now THIS is my favorite book of 2012. This is the one to beat. Loved every minute of this book. ( )
  kathydassaro | Jul 11, 2012 |
When newlywed Dolly moves to a small town in WI with her husband following WWII, she is homesick and struggling with the restrictions and realities of marriage. She falls in love with an old house, and her new quilting group fills her in on the Mickelsons, the family that lived in the house. This deals with a family surviving the 2 world wars, as well as womens' struggles through the generations. I struggled a bit with her writing and with some very coincidental plots twists, but she does a nice job of setting the time and place. Appreciated the book more after hosting the author and hearing about her history credentials and writing process. ( )
  libreader | Feb 13, 2012 |
I lked this more than I expected. Reading it for book club I was interested in the observations Baker made regarding marriage. How people often don't really know the person they marry. Their notion of who this person is more a product of their dreams rather than reality.
She uses the character Dolly and her facination with the Mansion on the hill to challenge the notion our materialistic values.
The marital crimes and misdemeanors commited by the matriach and patriarch of the family pose important questions. Are actions or attitudes more important. or equally important?
I would recommend it for a book club. Good for discusion. ( )
  jreeder | Sep 22, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 081297784X, Paperback)

Set in the conformist 1950s and reaching back to span two world wars, Ellen Baker’s superb novel is the story of a newlywed who falls in love with a grand abandoned house and begins to unravel dark secrets woven through the generations of a family. Like Whitney Otto’s How to Make an American Quilt in its intimate portrayal of women’s lives, and reminiscent of novels by Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler, Keeping the House is a rich tapestry of a novel that introduces a wonderful new fiction writer.

When Dolly Magnuson moves to Pine Rapids, Wisconsin, in 1950, she discovers all too soon that making marriage work is harder than it looks in the pages of the Ladies’ Home Journal. Dolly tries to adapt to her new life by keeping the house, supporting her husband’s career, and fretting about dinner menus. She even gives up her dream of flying an airplane, trying instead to fit in at the stuffy Ladies Aid quilting circle. Soon, though, her loneliness and restless imagination are seized by the vacant house on the hill. As Dolly’s life and marriage become increasingly difficult, she begins to lose herself in piecing together the story of three generations of Mickelson men and women: Wilma Mickelson, who came to Pine Rapids as a new bride in 1896 and fell in love with a man who was not her husband; her oldest son, Jack, who fought as a Marine in the trenches of World War I; and Jack’s son, JJ, a troubled veteran of World War II, who returns home to discover Dolly in his grandparents’ house.

As the crisis in Dolly’s marriage escalates, she not only escapes into JJ’s stories of his family’s past but finds in them parallels to her own life. As Keeping the House moves back and forth in time, it eloquently explores themes of wartime heroism and passionate love, of the struggles of men’s struggles with fatherhood and war and of women’s conflicts with issues of conformity, identity, forbidden dreams, and love.

Beautifully written and atmospheric, Keeping the House illuminates the courage it takes to shape and reshape a life, and the difficulty of ever knowing the truth about another person’s desires. Keeping the House is an unforgettable novel about small-town life and big matters of the heart.

Advance praise for Keeping the House
“Ellen Baker’s first novel is a wonder! Keeping the House is a great big juicy family saga, a romantic page-turner with genuine characters written with a perfect sense of history, time, and place. Her portrayal of the American housewife is hilarious and heartbreaking. I couldn’t have liked it more!”
–Fannie Flagg, author of Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven

“Ellen Baker’s first novel, Keeping the House, is a quilt that grids a small Midwestern town in the middle of the last century. Under this writer’s deft hands, each square is a story, a mystery, an indiscretion, a tale of the great house and grand family who once ruled there. Even more, it captures the roles of women then: both the living embodiments of demure ideals, and those who couldn’t fit the pattern. Edith Wharton’s novels of domestic despair and display come to mind with each page.”
–Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

“A born storyteller, Ellen Baker has written an enthralling family saga filled with three generations of memorable characters and capturing the dreams and frustrations of twentieth-century women in wonderful, spot-on historical detail.”
–Faith Sullivan, author of Gardenias and The Cape Ann

“Ellen Baker has written the novel I’ve been waiting to read for a very long time. It’s the book you want to curl up with, the book you rush home to, the book you wish you’d written. In Keeping the House, she serves up the complexities of family relationships, the anguish of victims of wars, the innermost thoughts of women, and the social mores of the past. Seasoned with mysteries that kept me devouring pages, this is one huge gourmet feast of a book for readers to savor. I look forward to every delicious book this author writes.”
–Bev Marshall, author of Walking Through Shadows and Right as Rain


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:29 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Lonely, restless, and bored with her life as a housewife in 1950s Pine Rapids, Wisconsin, Dolly Magnuson becomes fascinated by the abandoned grand old house on the hill overlooking the town and sets out to unravel the dark secrets of the family that had once owned it.… (more)

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