"Makkai fulfills the promise of her debut with this witty and darkly acerbic novel set in the rich soils of an artists' colony. The inverted timeline of the multi-generational narrative deepens the layered mysteries at its heart. As decades unfold in reverse, we find that nothing about Laurelfield's various inhabitants is at it first appears, and neither talent nor history sits on solid ground."- Ru Freeman author of On Sal Mal Lane and A Disobedient Girl
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.
B. A. Shapiro on The Hundred-Year House More Praise for The Hundred-Year House →
“The Hundred-Year House is a funny, sad and delightful romp through the beginning, middle and end of an artists’ colony as well as the family mansion that sheltered it and the family members who do and don’t survive it. Told backwards from the viewpoints of an array of eccentric and intertwined characters, the story’s secrets are revealed with stunning acuity. An ambitious work, well-realized.”
—B. A. Shapiro, author of The Art Forger