Reviews of Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard

Housebreaking

by Colleen Hubbard

Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard X
Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard
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    Apr 2022, 368 pages

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Book Summary

Following a long-standing feud and looking to settle the score, a woman decides to dismantle her home—alone and by hand—and move it across a frozen pond during a harsh New England winter in this mesmerizing debut.

Home is certainly not where Del's heart is. After a local scandal led to her parents' divorce and the rest of her family turned their backs on her, Del left her small town and cut off contact.

Now, with both of her parents gone, a chance has arrived for Del to retaliate.

Her uncle wants the one thing Del inherited: the family home.

Instead of handing the place over, and with no other resources at her disposal, Del decides she will tear the place apart herself—piece by piece.

But Del will soon discover, the task stirs up more than just old memories as relatives—each in their own state of unraveling—come knocking on her door.

This spare, strange, magical book is a story not only about the powerlessness and hurt that run through a family but also about the moments when brokenness can offer us the rare chance to start again.

Chapter One

On an unseasonably warm afternoon in late September, Del did something that she could not explain to herself and would not explain to others. In the months to come, when she considered the moment that changed everything, she would reach no conclusion as to why she did what she did. In the short term, it was stupid; but in the long term, it was nothing less than catastrophic.

The cleaning of South Elm started as it normally did. Del picked up the keys from the agency and checked the paperwork to see if there were any add-ons. Sometimes the owner wanted the fridge cleaned or the oven scoured. Other cleaners wouldn't do that sort of filthy work and tried to trade jobs, but Del didn't mind. She got paid fifteen dollars out of the agency's fifty-dollar fee for extras. On this occasion, a note indicated that she needed to change the sheets in the top-floor guest suite.

South Elm was fairly straightforward. She had cleaned it twice a week for more than a year without ever meeting ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Think about Del's reaction to finding out the house she now owned was going to be torn down. Why do you think this was a tipping point for her in the novel?
  2. Throughout the novel, Del thinks of her mother a lot. What do you think the deconstruction of the house represents in relation to her memory of her mother?
  3. Del discusses why she stuck to tearing apart the house she inherited. Thinking about this, why do you believe she chose to keep the house in the first place?
  4. With Del's memories of her parents, there seems to be a running theme of escape. Thinking about your answer to the last question, do you think that tearing the house apart offers an escape? For whom?
  5. Jeanne's life is unraveling at the same time Del's house deconstruction ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Despite the outlandish premise and some repetitive passages of Del's work dismantling the house, Hubbard skillfully captures Del's desperation while slowly unraveling the story of her late parents' lives. This is a moving take on how a hard-knock existence can be transformed by friendship and determination.

Author Blurb Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author of The Weird Sisters
A wry and unexpectedly tender story of finding the family we need when we least expect it. Perfect for fans of Olive Kitteridge and The Good House.

Author Blurb Emma Hooper, bestselling author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Deliciously witty and deeply poignant. Sharp, surprising and memorable, this is a book I know I'll keep mulling over for a long, long time.

Author Blurb Sharlene Teo, award-winning author of Ponti
Darkly funny and brimming with pathos...For fans of Elizabeth Strout, Ottessa Moshfegh...This is a humorous and life-affirming trip through the fraught, weird heart of America, exploring the granular details that make and break a life.

Reader Reviews

Maggie R. (Canoga Park, CA)

Deconstructing
When Elizabeth Strout and Ottessa Moshfegh are referenced in media reviews - as in "if you like ..." I have possibly unrealistically high expectations. Which were met! The requisite off kilter, unlikable yet believable family members, the impossible ...   Read More
Barb G. (FL)

Be ready for sleepless nights ....
Housebreaking! I had no idea when I started this book that it would be about such strong and courageous women. Women who were bored at various stages of life and who unknowingly helped each other through their actions. What a wonderful book that ...   Read More
Ann B. (Kernville, CA)

Deconstructing as a means of building self
A bildungsroman with a twist, this "new adult" coming-of-age novel's premise is both fascinating and multifaceted. Young, rude, aimless, loner Del challenges herself to demolish her childhood home, and in the process of deconstructing the house and ...   Read More
Mary B. (St Paul, MN)

Housebreaking
Del is a 24 years old, soon to be 25, who can not get her life on track. After her mother's death at age 17, she left everything behind, including the house her mother owned in a small New England town. She lives with her father until his death, only...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Novels About Inheritance

In Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard, protagonist Del finds herself in the position of having inherited her family's home and being tasked with what to do with it. Inheritance, whether of a home, money, information or an object of unique value, has long proven to be a fertile plot point in fiction. The revelation of an inheritance can spark jealousies among family members, unearth buried secrets or put a wayward character in an uncharacteristic place of responsibility, as in Del's case. Below are some other novels featuring an inheritance of some kind for you to explore.

Covers of books about inheritance

The promise of an inheritance drives the main action in Vanessa Veselka's The Great Offshore Grounds, in which half sisters Cheyenne and Livy mean to claim a ...

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