Wednesday, August 17, 2011

‘The Muir House’ by Mary DeMuth – Book Review

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One of my favorite authors since I’ve been blogging and reviewing is Mary DeMuth. When she was looking for reviewers for her newest novel, 'The Muir House,' I was hopeful I’d be included! So here I am – and here it is!

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

        You’ll find home one day. 
        Sure as sweet tea on a hot afternoon.
Words from Willa Muir’s sketchy childhood haunt her dreams and color her days with longing, regret, and fear. What do the words mean? Willa is far from sure.
So when Hale Landon places a ring on her finger, Willa panics, feeling she can’t possibly say yes when so much in her past is a mystery. Bent on sorting out her history, Willa returns to Rockwall, Texas, to the Muir House Bed & Breakfast, a former funeral home.
But the old place holds her empty memory close to itself. Willa’s mother utters unintelligible clues from her deathbed, and the caretaker of the house keeps coveted secrets carefully protected. Throw in an old flame, and Willa careens farther away from ever knowing the truth.
Set in a growing suburb of Texas, THE MUIR HOUSE explores trauma, healing, love new and old, and the life-changing choices people make to keep their reputations intact.

Here is the biography of this author:

Mary DeMuth is the author of several southern novels, including A Slow Burn, Life in Defiance, and the Christy award finalists Watching the Tree Limbs and Daisy Chain. She’s also written four parenting books and a memoir, Thin Places. She’s passionate about the written word, teaching, and mentoring writers. Mary lives in Texas with her husband, Patrick, and their three children.

Here is the trailer for this compelling novel:

The main character, Willa Muir, feels that there are some secrets in her family that she needs to uncover. As is the case in real life, people have a tendency to try to convince you to leave the truth buried. Such was the case in this book:

Willa stepped back until her calves touched the wet chair, but she didn’t move away. Genie’s words stunned her to the wood floor. Was Genie trying to tell her something? That the trauma she’d forgotten could be some sort of abuse?... Had she been violated as her counselor suspected, but she dismissed? She chastised herself for thinking only of herself and not considering Genie’s pain, so obvious in front of her. Maybe Genie’s rough edges had extremely good reasons.
Genie returned to the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows. Their ancient panes blurred the house, softening its angles. “If I were you, I’d let things lie.”
At the word lie, Willa felt her soul recoil, if such a things could be said about a soul. Would she ever know the truth? Of a girl with an empty memory who agonized over filling it back up? She said nothing. Instead, she returned the empty cup to the small kitchen, set it in the uncluttered sink, and left. (pp. 91-92)

Willa’s boyfriend, Hale, had an insight about Willa’s psyche that really resonated with me:

…“Here’s my First Theory of Willa Relativity. You grew up with chaos and pain, right?”
She nodded. The sunshine drifted behind a cloud, shivering her.
“That’s your haven. What you grew accustomed to. It became your familiarity, your safe place.”
“That makes no sense. Why would chaos be a safe place?”
“Because it’s what’s comfortable for you, what you know. What if God were calling you to something radically different? What if he wanted you to let go of the drama, to turn your back on it, and walk confidently in a new place?” (pp. 126-127)

Here’s another exchange between Willa and Hale later on in the book, as she is learning more truths from her family’s past:

        “I suppose you’ll say this is God’s timing.”
“I am saying that. But not in a platitude way. Don’t you believe that he knows the best way to heal you? That he knows when you can stomach the truth?”
“I don’t feel very capable right now.” She lowered her eyes, looked at her untouched muffin, still preening on a plate.
“Wounds hurt when they’re exposed. They divvy up a lot more pain as they get better. But eventually they heal over.”
“How can you be so sure? How would you know something like that?”
“You’re not the only one who has issues.” (p. 206)   

There are lots of twists and turns in this novel. It is a book that is hard to put down; hopefully, you will have a lot of time to devote to reading it, or you will be frustrated having to put it down.

This is the third Mary DeMuth book that I had read; the others are ‘Thin Places: A Memoir’ (you can read my review here) and ‘Life in Defiance’ (you can read my review here). One common element in those books and this one is the openness and transparency of dysfunctional behavior. Mary brings up topics that are often shunned and ignored by other authors who write with a Christian worldview. Abuse in its various forms, parent’s declining health, as well as family secrets, are scrutinized with amazing truth and intensity. I am always challenged when I read a Mary DeMuth book, and I appreciate that about her work. 'The Muir House' is no exception, and I am grateful for Mary that she has the strength and courage to address difficult issues.  

You can order this book here.

This book is published by Zondervan Publishers and was provided by them for review purposes.


Mary DeMuth said...

Thank you for that sweet review, Andrea! I appreciate you.

Andrea Schultz said...

You're welcome, Mary! It was my pleasure to read another compelling Mary DeMuth title!

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