Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Review: Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo

Renovating an historic Memphis house together, three cousins discover that their spectacular failures in love, career, and family provide the foundation for their future happiness in this warm and poignant novel from the author of The Roots of the Olive Tree that is reminiscent of The Postmistress, The Secret Life of Bees, and Kristin Hannah’s novels.

Nearing thirty and trying to avoid the inescapable fact that they have failed to live up to everyone’s expectations and their own aspirations, cousins and childhood best friends Lizzie, Elyse, and Isobel seek respite in an oddly-shaped, three-story house that sits on a bluff sixty feet above the Mississippi.

As they work to restore the almost condemned house, each woman faces uncomfortable truths about their own failings. Lizzie seeks answers to a long-held family secret about her father in her grandmother’s jumble of mementos and the home’s hidden spaces. Elyse’s obsession with an old flame leads her to a harrowing mistake that threatens to destroy her sister’s wedding, and Isobel’s quest for celebrity tempts her to betray confidences in ways that would irreparably damage her two cousins.

Told in three parts from the perspective of each of the women, this sharply observed account of the restoration of a house built out of spite, but filled with memories of love is also an account of friendship and how relying on each other’s insights and strengths provides the women a way to get what they need instead of what they want.

Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication: August 19th 2014 by William Morrow & Company
Terri's Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher William Morrow via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication date is August 19, 2014.

This is the story of Lizzie, Elyse and Isobel as they come together to renovate a house and simultaneously attempt to put the pieces of their lives together.  I have to give kudos to the author for the appropriately named title of the story.  It is told in three stories giving a perspective to each of the cousins.  Hence Three story house...well done.

This was a nice read where I enjoyed some of the characters more than others.  For example I enjoyed Lizzie and her determination to reach her goals.  I also enjoyed watching her struggle with the realization that these goals may be out of her reach.  On the flip side I felt that Elyse was a little too desperate to truly identify with.  Isobel fell somewhere in between.

While the story was good I did find that there were some glitches in the execution of the story.  Many times the transitions did not work and I had to re-read portions of the book to find out what was going on.  Also the majority of the romance happens "off-screen" which left me wondering how they had progressed.  Lastly I struggled with the character of Benny.  I found that he was a surplus character that should have had more involvement in the outcome of the story.  Although I knew he wasn't what the reader is led to believe he was (no spoilers here I promise) he was present too much in the story to not have a greater significance to the storyline.

This story entertained me.  If you can overlook the inconsistencies in the story and the fact that everything seems to only touch the surface then I say read it.

About the Author

Courtney Miller Santo teaches creative writing at the University of Memphis, where she received her MFA. She has a BA in journalism from Washington and Lee University and although born and raised in Portland, Oregon, she’s spent most of her adult life in the South. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Los Angeles Review, Irreantum, Sunstone and Segullah.

Twitter:  courtney_santo

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