The House at the End of Hope Street

The titular residence in Menna van Praag's The House at the End of Hope Street appears only to women like Alba Ashby, who finds herself at its door after "the worst event" of her life. She's welcomed by Peggy, who explains to Alba she can stay for 99 nights, "long enough to help you turn your life around but short enough so you can't put it off forever."

Alba receives advice from portraits of the house's former residents--including Dorothy Parker, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Taylor--who speak to her. She also meets two other women seeking sanctuary: Greer, an actress at a crossroads in her life and career, and Carmen, who has buried something in the yard that seems to terrify her. Each woman's actions start affecting the others', driving them to face what they're running away from, until they discover they're not hopeless after all.

On the surface, this novel (van Praag's second, after Happier Than She's Ever Been) may sound precious: in addition to the talking portraits, the house has a ghost cat, a magical closet and breathing walls. The story stays grounded, however, because there is nothing cute about the events that send the women to the house. They've all gone through experiences that would derail most people. Their secrets unravel slowly, so there's a sense of mystery, and some of the revelations are surprising. Everything wraps up a bit too neatly in the end, but whatever happiness van Praag's characters find feels well earned. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, writer/editor blogging at Pop Culture Nerd

Powered by: Xtenit