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The Poet's House

by Jean Thompson

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843326,123 (3.75)7
"A contemporary story about the insular world of writers, centering on a notable female poet and the young woman to whom she reveals her long-guarded secret about a famous manuscript"--
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When I started Jean Thompson’s The Poet’s House, I worried it was another dreaded book about an angsty twenty-something trying to find herself…and it is, but in the best way. Having struggled with reading and school her entire life, landscaper Carla finds herself hanging around a group of poets after she falls asleep on Viridian’s porch during a job. Carla realizes Viridian is a famous poet, and she begins to care for the older woman and her friends as she tries to figure out where she is in her own life. What Thompson brings to this story that so many writers cannot is her worldly knowledge, and excellent writing that manages to flesh out a lot of characters in a little space, The Poet’s House is an excellent book about writing, poetry, friendship, and the struggle to find yourself at any age. ( )
  Hccpsk | Sep 2, 2022 |
As a wannabe writer much of my life, I quite enjoyed this. Twenty-something Carla is dyslexic, so reading is not her strong suit; college has not held her. She works for a landscaper, and is a skillful and knowledgeable gardener. But one day she is smitten by a gracious, elegant older woman called Viridian, a famous poet whose garden she is tending. Which doesn't mean much to Carla, until she happens on a reading by Viridian, and when she hears the poems read aloud, she is thunderstruck. Viridian begins to draw Carla into her social clique - long wine-soaked dinners and endless talk talk talk, words words words, puzzling and complicated relationships, poisonous ambition, empty performances. Naïve Carla can't get enough of it. But she is smart, outspoken, and doesn't mind asking "stupid questions," and people seem to like her. Her open and curious observation of this literary culture makes for some wry, funny, but generally forgiving, mockery of the posturing, backbiting manipulation in the very incestuous world of poetry - leavened with some true kindness and loyalty. Viridian, Carla discovers, has money trouble, health problems, and a dark and dramatic past with a crazed poet whose final works were destroyed before he committed suicide. Or were they? Wouldn't everyone like to know, and get their hands on them!

The episode of a writers' conference up in the woods goes on too long, but anyone who's been to one of those shindigs will get a smile and a laugh of recognition of how silly they can be and how much some attendees are ready to slip out early by the fourth day. (Five days! I can barely stick out two!) The humor can go a bit sophomoric (the horndog Famous Novelist cavorting in a hot tub with two squealing girls, while the tub water steeps leaves of poison oak). The ending is quite a bit too neat, too pat - Carla makes a discovery that solves pretty much everyone's problems at once, and finds a promising path forward for herself. Even her obnoxious mother finds love. Some characters are a bit thin, others are quite lovable; Carla's boyfriend is a dweeb and possibly a jerk. But overall, a pleasant couple of evenings with someone who knows well the world of which she writes, with affection spiced with rueful teasing. ( )
  JulieStielstra | Aug 25, 2022 |
The Poet's House by Jean Thompson is a coming of age story. The main character Carla is introduced to her own potential. This story takes a while to settle into. Ultimately, the fact that art - especially art with words - is the vehicle for Carla's growth of course resonates with this reader. I believe in the power of words to alter lives, and this book personifies that.

Read my complete review at http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2022/07/the-poets-house.html

Reviewed for NetGalley and a publisher’s blog tour. ( )
  njmom3 | Jul 17, 2022 |
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