“Rebecca Makkai is the most refreshing kind of writer there is: both genius and generous. Every masterfully crafted connection, every lovingly nestled detail, is a gift to the attentive reader. Playful, poignant, and richly rewarding, The Hundred-Year House is the most absorbing book I've read in ages. Before you've finished, you'll want to read it again.”- Eleanor Henderson author of Ten Thousand Saints
When Doug’s mother-in-law offers up the coach house at Laurelfield, her hundred-year-old estate north of Chicago, Doug and his wife Zee accept. Doug is fascinated by the house’s previous life as an artists’ colony, and hopes to find something archival there about the poet Edwin Parfitt, who was in residence at Laurelfield in the twenties (and whose work happens to be Doug’s area of scholarship). When he learns that there are file cabinets full of colony materials in the attic, Doug is anxious to get to work and save his career—but his mother-in-law refuses him access. With help from friends, Doug finally does access the Parfitt file—only to find far stranger and more disturbing material than he bargained for.
Doug may never learn all the house’s secrets, but the reader does, as the narrative zips back in time from 1999 to 1955 and 1929. We see the autumn right after the colony’s demise, when its newlywed owners are more at the mercy of the place’s lingering staff than they could imagine; and we see it as a bustling artists’ community fighting for survival in the last, heady days of the 1920s.
Through it all, the residents of Laurelfield are both plagued and blessed by the strange legacy of Laurelfield’s original owners: extraordinary luck, whether good or bad.
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“The novel’s unique structure and its vibrant characters make for active, exciting reading. Questions raised in one section are answered in others, creating a reading experience that might have you flipping back and forth through the pages. Makkai’s sense of humor creates funny moments (the artists’ drinking escapades) that offset more dismal ones (Grace’s struggle with her husband). The Hundred-Year House is a puzzle, a plunge into a world of fascinating characters, and an examination of human relationships. It is not to be missed.” Full review here.