Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review - The Muir House

The Muir House
Link to Amazon
When I received The Muir House in the mail I jumped in and began to devour it in my typical 'Let's read this book as fast as I can because there are more books to be read and I don't have time for them all' fashion. And then I slowed down, because this book is just too good to rush through. Unlike many pop Christian authors Mary DeMuth writes with nuance and with symbolism that invites the reader to slow down and savor her books, mulling over characters, pondering thematic elements and sinking into the sense of place that often develops in each book.

After finishing I sat down to write my review. And then I got up without writing a word. The next time I think I got about three sentences on screen before giving up. Because the truth is, I loved The Muir House so much and want everyone to read it that I'm afraid a less than polished review won't do it justice. Sigh. Apparently I have taken the entire weight of DeMuth's career upon my own shoulders. Yeah, I have an overblown sense of my own importance like that.

But enough about me, on to actually reviewing the book. Did I mention it was good?

Willa Muir has just been proposed to by the man she loves. She walks away with the ring on her finger but with her future with Hale the green smoothie-drinking quasi-hippie boyfriend still in doubt. (Oh, how I love the descriptions of Hale!) Because Willa can't say yes, can't move forward with her life until she answers the one burning question that has consumed her for years. Events transpire fairly quickly that thrust her back to the place she does not want to go, the only place that still may hold the answers she is looking for. Questions of what defines home and how one finds it when what you have had is less than perfect are central to the story in The Muir House. Walls, houses and building become symbols for the internal journey even as they relate to the plot of the book.

Can I just be honest for a moment? There are times I wanted to smack Willa for refusing to move on with her life because of questions in her past. This is, I think, what makes this such a good book. Because after I think about smacking some sense into her I start to think about how much I may do something similar in my life. This is the beauty of DeMuth's writing, the flawed character with whom we can identify. I quickly tire of characters who solve every problem with perfect Christian composure and the scripture to back it up. I can relate to a character who is unavoidably messy, incredibly real, and DeMuth's books always have their share of messy. Even the perfect Hale deserved a little shaking at some moments.

Although neither a suspense nor a mystery book, this book contains enough questions to satisfy a mystery lover. Characters are introduced, past conversations are alluded to and gradually we piece together the story of who each person is, how they fit into Willa's life and the role they play in shaping her memories.The conclusion is neither saccharine sweet nor forced into a reality-defying turn of events that requires suspension of all common sense. It was, in fact, a satisfying conclusion that left me hoping for the possibility of a second book focusing on other characters in Willa's story.

Mary DeMuth gets better with every book she writes. Old fans will no doubt love this book as much as the others, and I hope that new fans are created who will then go back to seek out some of her past writing. She is well worth the time.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in hopes that I would provide a favorable review. All opinions expressed in my review, however, are 100% my own.

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