Anjuelle Floyd’s sophomore novel, The House, is an attempt to delve into the nature of love in it’s various manifestations that, for me, fell quite short of expectations. Its characters, especially the main character, are unlikable and hardly feel like they could be real people.
The plot is what drew me to originally want to read and review Ms. Floyd’s book. Anna and Edward Manning are in the middle of a divorce, after a marriage that lasted thirty-three years and produced four often-selfish children. Edward, a man known for his infidelity throughout the marriage, is fighting for the divorce not to happen when, suddenly, he signs the divorce papers and tells Anna she can have everything she wants. Which is, oddly enough, only the right to sell the house their children grew up in and to keep half of the proceeds. Edward is, presumably, in the real estate business and had made quite a name for himself. But she wants no spousal support, only half what the house sells for so she can move to Paris.
When Edward tells Anna she can have exactly what she wants, she immediately grows suspicious. She goes digging and finds out that Edward has cancer and has been given less than six months. For a variety of reasons that really don’t seem to make any sense, Anna does not file the divorce paperwork, moves back into their shared home, and vows to take care of Edward for the remainder of his life. All four of their children suddenly arrive, some with spouses in tow, to help take care of their dying father.
I found myself hating this entire family. First of all, the children are all selfish and demean their mother on a regular basis. These characters sit around discussing her choices, her past and her future, with her sitting right in front of them. She remains silent. She rarely stands up for herself, and even when she does she sounds more apologetic than as a woman pissed off at the circumstances of her life. Her husband not only cheated on her throughout THIRTY-THREE YEARS of marriage, but everyone knew about it. Even her! She is weak and reminds me of that woman who keeps going back to an abusive relationship, despite everyone around her telling her to just leave the bastard.
Then we get into the actual language of the book. Ms. Floyd is a psychotherapist by occupation, and it shows. Her character descriptions read like a psychoanalyst. The dialogue is forced and formal, rarely flowing like casual conversation. There is a lot of this book that is repetitive. The narrator repeats certain phrases (“dying of cancer”), the timeline of events leading up to the divorce (can’t count how many times it’s mentioned that they were married for 33 years), and people’s names (a person’s full name is used pretty much every other time he or she is mentioned). I found myself growing irritated with the repetition. I had to struggle to finish reading the book; it took me three weeks to finish.
For me, the redeeming factor is the image, or characterization, of the home itself. The house plays a pivotal role in the story, as it is not only the place where this family was created, but it is also a point of contention for the members of this family. Everyone is angry when they find out Anna’s plan is to sell it, and we find out later that the house is the one thing Edward really wanted to be able to provide for his wife. He was away all the time, because the most important thing in his life was the ability to provide such a home to his family – the one thing he felt he didn’t have as a child. I can identify with that desire to create and maintain the home and family of your dreams. When Edward’s vision of his perfect family is shattered by his wife’s desire for a divorce, he does what is within his power to maintain that vision. Even if nobody else sees the family the same way he ever did.
In the spirit of complete honesty, I have to admit that I really did not like this book at all. It was tough to get through, and difficult to find anything that I liked. What I did find interesting, is that the book has a lot of potential. The story at it’s most basic is an interesting idea. If you were divorcing someone after being married a few decades, and found out he or she was dying, what would you do?
You can read more about the author at her website: http://www.anjuellefloyd.com/ or follow her on twitter @anjuellefloyd. I also had an opportunity to interview the author, Anjuelle Floyd, which you can read here.
This article is also available on Associated Content.
***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own***