If you haven’t heard yet, there is a fabulous debut that came out on 11 August! It’s called “Housebreaking” by Colleen Hubbard and if you love Elizabeth Strout this is definitely for you!
Thank you so much to Clare over at Two Fond of Books and to Corsair Books for making me one of the lucky people to have already read this great story!
Following a long-standing feud and looking to settle the score, a woman decides to dismantle her home—alone and by hand—and move it across a frozen pond during a harsh New England winter in this mesmerizing debut.
Home is certainly not where Del’s heart is. After a local scandal led to her parents’ divorce and the rest of her family turned their backs on her, Del left her small town and cut off contact.
Now, with both of her parents gone, a chance has arrived for Del to retaliate.
Her uncle wants the one thing Del inherited: the family home.
Instead of handing the place over, and with no other resources at her disposal, Del decides she will tear the place apart herself—piece by piece.
But Del will soon discover, the task stirs up more than just old memories as relatives—each in their own state of unraveling—come knocking on her door.
This spare, strange, magical book is a story not only about the powerlessness and hurt that run through a family but also about the moments when brokenness can offer us the rare chance to start again.
“She wanted to go through life completely unnoticed, below level, submarine.”
Meet Del. 24 without much to show for. She lives with Tym, an old friend of her late father, and she just cannot be bothered. She can’t retain a job, she has no purpose, 0 ambition, and no social life.
So when she loses yet another menial job, and Tym asks her to move out, she gets quite a kick up the backside! Coincidently, a ghost from her past shows up: her cousin Greg. He came to make her an offer on behalf of his father, her Uncle Chuck: he wants to buy her parents’ house.
As she travels across the country and back in time, intent on accepting this offer, she is forced to face the feelings she’s buried all of those years. And when reality strikes that they are not interested in her or the house, but in fact in the land to develop and make money out of it, something in her snaps.
She goes back to a feral state, a core and primitive instinct possessing her that she cannot (nor want to) get rid off, embarking on this insane project to deconstruct the house room by room, piece by piece, and move it across the pond as an act of vengeance against this family she so despises.
What a clever story Colleen Hubbard has written here!
As Del has no choice but face her past, you cannot help but wonder if one can ever really escape the past? Aren’t we always forced to confront it in order to move forward?
“You’re a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a terrible haircut.“
By deconstructing the house, Del also deconstructs her life. To free herself from the shackles and hurts from the past, she will have to perform an exorcism. She will have to face and accept the dichotomy of nostalgia, make peace with herself, her late parents, their shortcomings, and this town and its people that she loathes and loves at the same time.
“I need to finish this. I do. I can’t explain it.“
She’s so stubborn, it might kill her but she won’t give up! For once in her life she doesn’t want to. It is stronger than her, it’s an urge she cannot shake. In her determination and her fury, she takes herself to the brink, turning into a wounded animal who wants to be left alone.
But it is without counting on others forcing a helping hand. By reluctantly (not) accepting for other people to unexpectedly make their way into her life and her project, she is given something even more unexpected: hope.
Through this crazy endeavour, Del is working towards finding herself and letting go of the past, ready for the future, and you cannot help but wonder: what would I have done in her shoes?
—About the Author—
Colleen Hubbard is an American writer who grew up in New England and now lives in (old) England with her British husband and children. Her debut novel, Housebreaking, was published in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in April 2022, in August 2022 in the UK, and is forthcoming in 2023 in translation. Her essays have appeared in Electric Literature, Literary Hub and other publications.