Friday, April 8, 2022


Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard
4/19/22; 368 pages
Penguin Random House

Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard is a very highly recommended coming-of-age domestic drama but also a novel about healing brokenness.

Del Murrow is currently living with a friend of her father's, Tym. What led her there was a scandal, divorce and the death of both of her parents. When her father died Tym offered a room for her at his place. Now at age 24 she is directionless and recently unemployed. Then after no contact for years, her uncle unexpectedly sends her cousin Greg as an emissary to talk to Del about selling the abandoned family home and land from her mother's estate. Then Tym suggests she should get her own place. These changed circumstances lead her to travel back to the small town where her childhood home is located to consider the offer. Once there she devises another plan, and counters her uncle's offer with a totally unexpected condition. Her plan will require her to move her family home across a pond onto a swampy track of land.

It is the tale of a relative (Del) who is looked down at by her other relatives (her uncle) who wants to take advantage of her youth and inexperience to benefit himself. Del is certainly broken emotionally and demoralized. She feels she has no one to rely upon but herself, although Tym remains a friend and supports her emotionally. Her plan has her taking on the clearly Sisyphean task of dismantling a house and moving it across a pond. The end result of this enormous task is that her uncle will not own the house and the new houses in the development her uncle builds on the land will have a view of the junk pile of her deconstructed house.

As Del works on her monumental backbreaking task, she has her mother's friend Eleanor checking up on her and she makes friends with a supermarket clerk, but mostly Del works alone, desperate to extract her revenge on her uncle while simultaneously examining her parents lives along with her own while taking the house apart. She needs the cash but she also needs to deal with the powerlessness and hurt she feels over the treatment of her family as well as the abandonment their deaths represent by leaving her mark in the area for her mother's sake.

This strange fairy-tale of a book captured my imagination and held my attention throughout. I don't know if I can adequately express why I loved it so much, but I did. Del experiences growth as a character as she undertakes the seemingly impossible task by sheer determination. The undertaking of the project, which appears to be foolish, actually provides a calling for Del. She puts all of her fortitude and effort into the project and refuses to give up. In the end she learns something about herself.

There is one drawback which was a niggling little fact always at the back of my mind. In the real world you have to pay property taxes. I had to set aside the fact that realistically her uncle could have likely bought the property for back taxes due. Just as with any fable, reality isn't always part of the story. I embraced the folkloric part of the plot and set reality aside to enjoy the heroine overcoming the obstacles placed before her in order to finish the task she must complete.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House via NetGalley.

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