Friday, September 5, 2008

Review: House and Home by Kathleen McCleary (Also a Blog Tour Guest Post by the Author!)

Book: House and Home by Kathleen McCleary
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: A-

Have you ever been so attached to a house that you couldn't stand
the thought of leaving it? So attached, in fact, that instead of selling it and seeing it turned over to new owners who could do anything at all with it, you'd rather burn it down?

That's just how Ellen in this novel House and Home feels. She is so distraught over leaving her beautiful home in Oregon, a home that she has decorated so cute and lovingly and that's full of so many memories, that she'd rather see it burned to the ground. And not only is she dealing with the stress over selling the house, she is also having problems with her estranged husband, her young daughters who are also upset at moving, and an interesting guy that shows up every morning at her coffee shop.

I totally enjoyed this book and loved how the house itself becomes part of the main cast of characters. But what I especially liked was seeing how Ellen grew as the story comes to its climatic and unexpected ending and how she learned what is really most important in her life.

As part of her blog tour stop here, I've asked Kathleen McCleary to share with us her road to being a published author and what inspired her to write this novel. I love her answers!Take it away Kathy:


How I got out of public bathrooms and started writing

A lot of people ask me how I got into writing fiction. The answer is that I’ve been writing my whole life—diaries and stories when I was a kid, journals in college, a career in journalism after college. I always wanted to write a novel, but couldn't come up with an idea I cared enough about to actually want to write an entire book. Then a few years ago I moved across country. I was so miserable over leaving my house, my neighborhood, my friends, and a place I loved, that suddenly I had something I cared about deeply, almost too much.

That’s what gave me the idea for the book, about a woman who cares too much about a home and way of life she has to give up. I wrote the first paragraph, then put it away. My grief over moving was still too intense, too raw. I started working as a barista at a local coffee shop in my small town, mainly because it got me out of the house and helped me meet people. I dreamt up a guy named Mr. Tall Vanilla Latte, and wrote a couple more chapters. Then I panicked: I had never written fiction, not even a short story, and had no idea what I was doing. Who was I to attempt a novel? I looked around for classes, thinking that might at least help me get through a few more chapters. But any local classes I found were either too far away, or didn’t work with my family’s schedule. Finally, I found an online class with It sounds crazy—“Finish your novel in 12 weeks”—but the class gave me instruction, deadlines, and most importantly, feedback from the teacher and other writers, who all seemed interested in my story and urged me to keep writing.

I wrote in the morning after my kids went to school, or late at night after they were in bed. I was still working as a freelance journalist and reporting and writing magazine articles during much of the day. The chapters kept piling up.

I hit a wall. I got discouraged. I didn’t know where the story was going; the characters kept saying and doing things I didn’t expect; I didn’t believe I’d ever finish, let alone get it published. I put the novel away for six months.

Then two things happened. My mother, who is always sending me newspaper articles and inspirational quotes she clips out of various publications, sent me a one-sentence quote. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It read: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Write a novel, I thought. Of course. Secondly, my husband said, “Just finish the book. Even if it never gets published, to actually write an entire novel is a major accomplishment you can always be proud of. You’ll have that your whole life.” Of course.

So I went back to it. I took the same novel writing class again, and cranked out the next chapters, word by word, sentence by sentence. And finally, on a magical day in January of 2007, I had a novel, an entire, whole, complete book.

I sent out a few letters blindly to agents, and was overwhelmed with the response. Within a month, I had an agent, and several publishers who were interested in the book. At the time, I was in the middle of reporting a story for a woman’s magazine on “How to avoid germs in public restrooms.” The editor had called asking if I’d spend a day in a public bathroom observing hand-washing and other behaviors. The next day my agent called with an offer for my novel from Voice, the publisher I’d liked the most. I was over the moon. Along with all the excitement of having a lifelong dream come true, was the thought that maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to take a break from writing magazine articles and never have to consider spending eight hours in a public bathroom again.


Don't you just love that story? I think it's perfect! Thanks so much, Kathy, for sharing it with us and stopping by today as part of your blog tour blitz!

So, back to my original question... HAVE you ever been too attached to a house? Where you able to let go? Or did you decide not to move? And what made you so attached? The house itself? The love you put into it? The memories there? The location? Comment with your story.

And if this book sounds like something you'd like, check it out here and learn more about the author here.

Also, check out other blog tours planned by TLC Book Tours here.


  1. Great post!

    I'm attached to my current home because we have put so much heart and hard work into remodeling it! It is still being tweaked and updated and with every new finished project I love it more :)

  2. Great post! I loved hearing the story of how Kathleen McCleary became a novelist. It's always fun to hear what authors are inspired by. I laughed out loud at the part about it getting her out jobs that involved public restrooms.

    I did have a little yellow house that I loved when my husband and I were first married, and we had to leave it to move to another state. I still miss it, even though it would be too small for us now that we have kids. -Julia

  3. We built our current house, so I think that makes it harder to leave... it is "our home" not some other person's.

    I liked the book review and hearing from the author about the process of writing it.

  4. Sounds like an interesting book! It was fun to hear how the book came about. As for me, I have never been attached to a house...may be I will get that opportunity someday. :)

  5. What a great story! I enjoy hearing the process some authors endure to get a story to us. I have never been too attached to a house. Of course, there are some aspects of the home I just moved from that tweak my heart strings a bit from time to time. For instance, when the afternoon light was just right there was a wonderful leaded-glass mulit-faceted window that cast rainbows all about the room. On good days the little kids and I would all pile onto my bed and play with the rainbows. I do, however, have a story about burning down houses for purely practical reasons, but this isn't the forum for that. :) Loved the post and enjoyed reading the author's own comments. Can't wait to read this book!

  6. I've never been attached to a house I've lived in, but other than my parents' house, I've lived only in apartments. I have been attached to other people's houses, like my Vova's (grandmother's) house in Boston. She had a great Victorian in Somerville, I just loved spending summers in the city. The Portuguese neighborhood felt like home to me. I miss that place to this day. I wish I was old enough when they sold it and moved to New Hampshire, I would have bought the place no question!

  7. I have that quote on a plaque. I always wonder what it is I would do if failure was not an option. It's encouraging someone took that and made something possible. I enjoyed her journey with the writing process as well!

    As someone who just sold their home of 12 years and built their new home, I can see parallels of the character. I had turned a neglected and unloved home into a place that was our sanctuary and respite from the world. There are things that are hard to get through such as, I brought home all four of my babies home to that house and all the memories we created there. The exciting thing was the people who bought our house loved what I had done to it and kept most of the paint schemes intact! Even more exciting after 10 years of marriage and no success of having children of their own, they brought home their newly adopted baby girl! There is solace in knowing a pattern will be repeated there.

    I always appreciate your thoughtful reviews Kerri Sue. To have given this novel a good review, I know it will be a good read!

  8. I know this isn't about your post, but I just saw your comment on my blog that you got a job, too, after being a SAHM for years! So, CONGRATS! :D


  9. I've moved so much in my life that I learned early not to get too attached to a house.

  10. I read your blog Suey! And I'd love to read this book. Do you have a loanable copy?

  11. Thanks for all the comments everyone. I'm loving hearing about your house attachments! And yes, Julie, you can borrow my book! :)

  12. I've never felt that way about any house I've lived in . . . but I'm only in my second and this one was a satisfice. Hubby swore we'd move on in 5 years or less. 18 years later, here we are . . . sigh.

  13. It was fun to hear how the author actually wrote a novel. The online class sounds interesting. I think I have been attached to every house I've lived in---mostly the house I grew up in and this house, the only one we've had since being married. Sometimes I get the urge to move and break out of our rut and do something totally different but when I actually think about leaving this house, I get a little teary and don't know if I could actually do it. But the Randalls left the house where they raised their kids and it was torn down and they will come home to a bran new house. So go figure!!

  14. I really enjoyed this post! I have fond memories of the duplex where I lived the early part of my childhood. My very first memories are in that home. It's where I discovered my love of reading. My sister and I shared a room with a big closet that had sliding doors and huge shelves on the sides. I used to curl up in the shelves with a flashlight to read and get a way from my sister!

    --Diary of an Eccentric

  15. Suey, have you seen this:

    Do you see how many times your blog link shows up there? Wowsa, how cool! I just hope she doesn't read my GoodReads review and hate me for it. Or roll her eyes and call me an idiot. Because she'd be right if she did, you know. :)



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