“At a moment when the American dream of home is in jeopardy, comes Ann Peters’s utterly engaging and singular memoir. Telling the stories of the houses she has inhabited, the landscapes, writers and people who have given her life meaning, she reminds us the search for home is also a quest for the soul’s refuge and that an account of the places of one’s life can be a source of revelation.” — Honor Moore, Author of The Bishop’s Daughter
Like the house built by Peters’ father on a hill in eastern Wisconsin, this book is designed to open up and offer many views—cornfields and glacial lakes, fast food parking lots and rural highways, Manhattan apartments and Brooklyn brownstones. Peters begins by revisiting the modern split-level where she grew up in Wisconsin and remembering the man who built it, her architect father. Against the background of this formative space, she charts her story as an adult, roaming the apartments where she lived for two decades in New York City, traveling to a cabin in the mountains of Colorado, and ending her story with the purchase of an old farmhouse in upstate New York.
House Hold tells a personal story — a drift through a remembered landscape — yet it is much more than a memoir. It is a roaming contemplation of America, a meditation on place and property, and an exploration of how literature shapes how we think about the places where we live. A gifted prose stylist, Peters succeeds in seamlessly combining her love of buildings with her love of books. She wanders through the rooms of her past, but also through the rooms of what Henry James once famously called “The House of Fiction.” Interweaving personal narrative with literary readings from the fiction of James, Cather, Howells, William Maxwell and others, Peters reflects on the romance of pastoral retreat, the hazards of nostalgia, and America’s history of expansion and land ownership. She examines some of the conflicted longings connected to American mobility: the desire to put down roots and the urge to hit the road; the push to leave home and that inevitable (and often impossible) compulsion to return to it. And she asks, again and again, how places make us who we are.
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