This book alternates between being hilarious and heartbreaking, but is always touching. It is very well written and I felt like I would love to have the main character (as well as her best friend) as my friends. I was especially drawn to the cozy Cape Cod described in the story. Her description of the house made me want to curl up in a corner of it with a cup of cocoa and a quilt. I very much enjoyed Kathleen McCleary's writing style and look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
An Interview with Kathleen McCleary:
What style house do you currently live in?
My current house is a 1957 brick house that I guess I'd describe as a cross between a Cape Cod and a bungalow. It's a combination of old, recycled brick and cream-colored clapboard siding. We've been removing wallpaper and painting and updating since we moved in four years ago. The house has beautiful oak floors throughout, and a lot of windows, and is vaguely Arts and Crafts style on the inside. I'm hoping to save enough money to one day redo my daughters' bathroom, which still has the original 1950s chartreuse tile, tub and sink.
How would you describe your decorating style?
I'd say my style is colorful, fresh, uncluttered, and informal. I enjoy strong colors (one wall in my living room is a rich butter yellow; the kitchen is sky blue; our bedroom is in cream, red, and brown) and I love clean, simple lines. (Here's a photo of one of my favorite spaces in my house, the fireplace and mantel in my living room:The Swedish artist Carl Larsson is a favorite decorating inspiration. I used the red and cream color scheme in his bedroom once in my living room:
If there was a fire in your house what 3 things (aside from family and pets) would you save?
I really had to think about this. Family photos aside, I'd probably grab my quilts (my great aunt Nell was a quilter and I have four or five beautiful quilts that she sewed in the 1920s); the painting over our mantel, by Oregon artist Judith Cunningham; and finally a portrait in my dining room that my eldest daughter painted of my youngest daughter. It captures her perfectly. They're all things that would be impossible to replace.
I have many things in common with the main character Ellen. We are both married to biomedical engineers, have 2 daughters, don't drink coffee and are house obsessed. Do you think that was a coincidence?!
I believe so, unless I've been channeling you in my sleep! It's funny because another blogger, Lisa at Books on the Brain, had a lot in common with Ellen, too. And I've had several women at various book signings tell me that THEIR lives were just like Ellen's. I hope that means that Ellen's feelings and experiences are somewhat universal.
Do you know what you will write about next and if so will a house be central to the story?
There are several great houses in my second book, but none are as central to the story as the little yellow house is to House & Home. I hope to finish writing this book by the end of the year. It's the story of a woman who gets so overwhelmed by what she perceives as the negative cultural influences affecting her school-age children that she decides to move them all to a remote island off the coast of Washington state to live without shopping malls, cell phones or traffic lights for a year. It's been a real adventure to write and research. But I love houses and believe that our environments influence us tremendously and say a lot about who we are, so houses play a key role in the book. Besides, it's just fun to imagine intriguing rooms and houses and describe them!