The Hundred-Year House
By Rebecca Makkai
Viking, Hardcover, 9780525426684, 352pp.
Publication Date: July 10, 2014
List Price: $26.95*
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Rebecca Makkai is a writer to watch, as sneakily ambitious as she is unpretentious."
Meet the Devohrs: Zee, a Marxist literary scholar who detests her parents wealth but nevertheless finds herself living in their carriage house; Gracie, her mother, who claims she can tell your lot in life by looking at your teeth; and Bruce, her step-father, stockpiling supplies for the Y2K apocalypse and perpetually late for his tee time. Then there's Violet Devohr, Zee's great-grandmother, who they say took her own life somewhere in the vast house, and whose massive oil portrait still hangs in the dining room.
Violet's portrait was known to terrify the artists who resided at the house from the 1920s to the 1950s, when it served as the Laurelfield Arts Colony and this is exactly the period Zee's husband, Doug, is interested in. An out-of-work academic whose only hope of a future position is securing a book deal, Doug is stalled on his biography of the poet Edwin Parfitt, once in residence at the colony. All he needs to get the book back on track besides some motivation and self-esteem is access to the colony records, rotting away in the attic for decades. But when Doug begins to poke around where he shouldn t, he finds Gracie guards the files with a strange ferocity, raising questions about what she might be hiding. The secrets of the hundred-year house would turn everything Doug and Zee think they know about her family on its head that is, if they were to ever uncover them.
In this brilliantly conceived, ambitious, and deeply rewarding novel, Rebecca Makkai unfolds a generational saga in reverse, leading the reader back in time on a literary scavenger hunt as we seek to uncover the truth about these strange people and this mysterious house. With intelligence and humor, a daring narrative approach, and a lovingly satirical voice, Rebecca Makkai has crafted an unforgettable novel about family, fate and the incredible surprises life can offer.
For readers of Dodie Smith's"I Capture the Castle.
“Rebecca Makkai is the most refreshing kind of writer there is: both genius and generous. Every masterfully crafted connection, every lovingly nestled detail, is a gift to the attentive reader. Playful, poignant, and richly rewarding, The Hundred-Year House is the most absorbing book I've read in ages. Before you've finished, you'll want to read it again.” —Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints
“A mesmerizing story of self-reinvention that delights on every page, told with keen wit and a perceptive eye. Like the unforgettable characters in this gripping novel, Laurelfield will draw you into its spell.”
—Charlie Lovett, author of The Bookman’s Tale
"The Hundred-Year House is a funny, sad and delightful romp through the beginning, middle and end of an artists' colony as well as the family mansion that sheltered it and the family members who do and don't survive it. Told backwards from the viewpoints of an array of eccentric and intertwined characters, the story's secrets are revealed with stunning acuity. An ambitious work, well-realized."
—B. A. Shapiro, author of The Art Forger
“Makkai fulfills the promise of her debut with this witty and darkly acerbic novel set in the rich soils of an artists’ colony. The inverted timeline of the multi-generational narrative deepens the layered mysteries at its heart. As decades unfold in reverse, we find that nothing about Laurelfield’s various inhabitants is at it first appears, and neither talent nor history sits on solid ground.”
—Ru Freeman, author of On Sal Mal Lane and A Disobedient Girl
“Rebecca Makkai is a writer to watch, as sneakily ambitious as she is unpretentious."
"A lively and clever story...exceptionally well-constructed, with engaging characters...and delightful twists that surprise and satisfy."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)