What price will people pay to hold their homes and dreams together?
When Kate and Stuart Kinzler buy a run-down historic house in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they’re hoping their grand renovation project can rescue their troubled marriage. Instead, they discover that years ago their home was the scene of a terrible crime – and the revelation tips the balance of their precarious union.
Probably one of the most exciting things about buying a new house is the actual house tours. The buyer is a stranger walking into what was a home to the previous owners and envisioning how they will make it their own. What goes into the decision to purchase is how a particular house will become a home, because where a person lives is so much a part of their life. But how many prospective homeowners go to open houses and try to see what lives were lived in the house in the past? I’m guessing that not many do, even though houses are memory banks of lives, secrets, and history.
Kate and Stuart Kinzler have bought a house that they plan to completely renovate with the hopes that this process will also have a positive effect on their marriage which has started to fall apart. But after discovering their new houses’ history, it appears that their renovation project will be easier to complete than their own personal problems.
Eventually Kate finds herself going on with the house project alone, until one day Walker Price shows up and offers to help. Working alongside Walker, Kate will discover some of her houses’ secrets and learn that giving a house a face-lift does not erase the history it hides.
In Dream House there are a number of story-lines at work, that all play a part in how the novel concludes. Kate and Stuarts’ relationship plot was the one I was least interested in. I felt it had too much of a made-for-tv movie feel to it, and I was a little cynical. A couple experiencing marriage problems takes on a major project or change in order to fix things – it seemed like they were hoping that this project would take the pressure off their current issues. To me this is an obvious mistake, the only way to fix a problem is to face it head-on. Plus the stress and pressures that come with home renovation could only exacerbate their relationship headaches.
However, the relationships that Kate develops later on in the story with her new acquaintances, Walker and Jay, led to the meat of the story which I really enjoyed. The author uses their present interactions as a way to tell about the history of the house as well as the characters, and that is what made the story work well for me. I liked that things were revealed slowly as the story progressed, there were no shocking plot-twists or other gimmicks, the story just slowly (but satisfyingly) unwound.
I enjoyed Valerie Laken’s Dream House very much, especially how the past and present came together. Although some of the elements were predictable, the story was unique. At first I had hoped it would focus on the development of Kate, but in the end I found it was more about how a house can be many things for different people.
Valerie Laken’s work has appeared in such publications as Ploughshares, the Missouri Review, and the Chicago Tribune.
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me the opportunity to host a stop on this tour!
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