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The Household Spirit

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  228 ratings  ·  46 reviews
In this remarkable novel, Tod Wodicka, author of All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well, has crafted a luminous story of a most curious friendship.

There’s something wrong next door. At least, that’s what neighbors Howie Jeffries and Emily Phane both think. Since his daughter and wife moved out, Howie has been alone, an accidental
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 9th 2015 by Pantheon (first published June 4th 2015)
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Average rating 3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  228 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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August Rex
Dec 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People I would like to see lose their minds.
Recommended to August by: Someone who is not getting anything for Christmas
Seeing all of the 4 and 5 star ratings after reading something like this makes me completely lose faith in humanity and think the dinosaurs really were the superior species.

During the first chapter I kept looking around for sharp objects to stab this book to death with to kill its annoying factor. Some say it's quirky and weird. No, quirky and weird is like seeing that chubby baby at McDonald's trying to eat a big balloon while the mom does nothing about it. Slobber all over the kid's chin and
Kasa Cotugno
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
There are two main characters in this book, who have lived side by side on Route 29 in upperstate New York, but have never communicated until forces throw them together. Howie has lived almost as a recluse ever since his wife left 20 years ago. His face, which she used to call "the last face on earth," gives a wrong impression of his gentle nature. So he finds it easier to just quietly exist on his own. Next door, Emily has returned home to nurse her ailing grandfather who had raised her on his ...more
May 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Everybody is weird to some degree, and with their own flavor of weird. Howard Jeffries and Emily Phane happen to be further-much further- along the weird continuum than most. They have lived next door to each other since Emily was new born, but have never interacted. Howard is pathologically shy and nearly incapable of showing- or perhaps of having- emotions. Emily has night terrors and is afraid of becoming close to others.

Living on an isolated stretch of highway in upstate New York, theirs
Chad Christy
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
This could have been an amazing short story. It could have been a good novella. To steal a phrase: It was too little jam spread over too much toast.
[ DNF ]

I had to DNF this because I just can't.
It's too dry. It feels like the story wasn't going anywhere. It wasn't for me.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"It sounded as if it was coming from the screens,from deep inside Emily's memory of home: a door opening, a blizzard, and the joy of a little girl shouting, "Daddy!"
Jul 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kc-book-club, fiction
The main characters in this novel personify the term weird. Yes, you could argue that in a sense, "aren't we all weird?", but if you put a bunch of people on a "weird" continuum these two, Emily and Howie, would be be at the far end of the spectrum. The novel is beautifully written and makes you really care about these people and you keep hoping that they will intersect and help each other out of the weird dimension they are inhabiting. My only complaint is with the ending. It felt rushed after ...more
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
What a curious, odd, and touching couple of characters. Don't know quite what to make of them all, but really enjoyed this read. There's some wonderful sentences in there.
Jul 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I did not like this book well enough to finish it...
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This novel, like Wodicka's first one, is tough to assess. As in that first one, too, he takes a dysfunctional character--well, actually, two this time--and makes him/them endearing. One of these dysfunctional characters is comfortable in his own skin but has extreme difficulty facing social interactions; the other is comfortable enough in the social world (though unable to get close enough to anyone to be anyone's best friend) but is uncomfortable with herself and, as a result (or, as a cause) ...more
M. Meyer
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: abandoned
Hopefully my computer won't eat it again. I was very frustrated with the slow development of this book. I abandoned it in frustration yesterday afternoon. I finished it this morning. I understand after reading the entire book that slow motion was part of the story. That didn't make it less frustrating. I meant to skip over a chunk of it, but I didn't do that either.

My favorite passage: ...His house appeared to be homemade. Made, it seemed, quite literally, haphazardly, from square chunks of
Janet Ramski
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tara Lewis
This is a gentle, funny, poignant story about a unique friendship. The multi-generational aspect of it startled me initially, but I think that's because books are so much grief/violence porn nowadays, or sugary sweet, that to read something that isn't an extreme was a surprise. A serendipity one.

I don't agree with some of the comments here that felt the characters were 'too quirky.' I don't think the book was trying at all. I felt the characters were all people I knew, or could know, with real
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-fiction
Well, I like strange and this one fit the bill.

Awkward, uneasy, charming, warm hearted, disturbing—the author takes all this and writes with expressive, sometimes odd quotable language. An unexpected story of eccentricity, pain, frailties, and need. It is full of tiny, heartbreaking revelations—unique, surprising.

This book has darkly humorous moments even though I would not consider it comic.
An unlikely friendship between a middle-aged man –sort of a Jack Nicholson curmudgeon character with a
Daniela Ritchie
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I liked the two main characters and there were some great lines in this novel, but ultimately I like a book with a good story and there wasn't really one in this. So, unfortunately I got bored and gave up.
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Page 100 and reading this is like watching paint dry. On to some other book for me!
Catherine at The Gilmore Guide to Books
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who loves characters who are characters and prose that stays with you.
In The Household Spirit, on a rural road in upstate New York, there sit two identical houses inhabited by two people who are anything but identical. Howie Jeffries is fifty-years old and has lived alone in his house since he and his wife divorced twenty years ago. He is a man with a huge heart wrapped in a persona of extreme shyness and an exterior that is so dour when he does smile it makes small children cry. He is not an angry man, just one who finds the outside world perplexing.

He was not,
Asa Wilder
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing

This is that rare kind of novel that completely absorbs the reader into its world without pandering to them. It’s at the same time fun, charming and emotionally taxing, snort-inducing funny and dark to the point I found myself audibly saying “fuuuuuuuuck”. It is something like a mystical or occult novel for our time, in our world. It is really fun to read and yet, I am still feeling the weight of it’s emotional heft weeks later. It
Norton Stone
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I struggled to find the rhythm of this book in the first quarter but there was enough to encourage me to persevere. The book really has two main characters in Howie Jeffries and Emily Phane and I liked them both when they were thrown together, two dysfunctional personalities that are able to make sense of each other and help the other emerge. It is somewhat fanciful but both characters are well drawn and that overcomes a location and plot that are not quite right but oddly appropriate at the ...more
Penny Schmuecker
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book because it had received many four and five star reviews, and initially, I did like it. It was quirky and subtly funny as the author tells the stories of two misfits. However, it rambled on and and just when I thought it was going somewhere, it left me hanging. I've never given less than a three star review before because if a story doesn't interest me, I don't bother finishing the book because there are simply too many good books to read. However, as I mentioned, I was ...more
Josianne Fitzgerald
Bowie and Emily are neighbors. He is cripplingly shy and she suffers from sleep paralysis, episodes in which she dreams she's awake but is totally paralyzed. He first saw her days after she was born but did not actually meet her until she was 25 years old. The neighbor families didn't talk at all.

The story revolves around the unique relationship between Emily and Howie. It's not sexual, it's not paternal, and yet it solidifies both of them.

It's a weird book in some ways, but a gripping one.
Libby Dogherty
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Masterfully written, fascinating characters, I couldn't put it down. Two broken people live separate lives next door to each other for 25 years. Drastically different people who come from lives that echo each other in different generations. When they are finally brought together, they silently discover what they each need and they heal each other. This is a book about how sometimes a person is needed in your life for a short interlude to save you and heal you. It's a beautiful portrait of ...more
Robert Wechsler
Aug 11, 2015 marked it as tasted
Shelves: american-lit
I wrote about Wodicka’s first novel, All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well, “It could’ve been a complete bore, but the author somehow managed to make the narration of a pitiful man work.” This time, at least for me, Wodicka failed to capture my interest.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
It took me a long time to really become engaged with these characters. The pace is very slow. Wodicka writes beautifully and is uniquely descriptive. Occasionally he drove me nuts with certain pretentious phrases that were used repeatedly--internet computer and telephone robot, for example. But I put that aside as he revealed more and more of Howie and Emily. Then I was completely taken in and invested in how it would all end. And I did find the ending satisfying.
Dawn Fayard
Sep 01, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5. This book grabbed me on the first page. Wow, how I adored Howie Jefferies. BUT, things starting heading south as soon as Emily was introduced. I kept reading simply to hear Mr. Jeffries' voice again. Beautifully written story but the focus on Emily and her condition started to wear on me. The ending left me hanging a bit, but maybe because it focuses mainly on the girls. Excellent writing, I look forward to reading more from this author.
Kimberly Cochrane
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of the most unique characters I've met in a long time

I have to admit, I bought this book because I knew the author...way back when. I slowly devoured this book because it's characters were so intriguing and unlike any I've ever read. This was one of those books I couldn't wait to get back to but also didn't want to read too quickly.

Amazing read for someone looking for a complex story with unique twists and real growth.
Jul 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of the reviews use words like "weird" or "unlikely" or "strange," which do describe the characters and the story. But for me a lot of the power of this book was in the feeling that we all have our secrets and our idiosyncrasies and there's a value in connection with other people on our own terms. I liked the way that Emily and Mr. Jeffries come to terms with their own inner struggles in ways that are intrinsically true to themselves.
Mary Beth
Jan 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Many times I wanted to throw the book across the room. The pace is so agonizingly slow it is, to paraphrase Emily Phrane, like watching grass grow. However, the freaky characters were compelling and I did want to discover if they would somehow contrive to save themselves and each other. And is sleep paralysis an actual thing? I need to investigate, because it sure seems like a fictional ailment!
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Finally, another 5-star book! Amazing characters that haven't left me yet. A plot that carried me along. Great writing. Laughs and tears. A happy ending!! Everyone is in a good place in the last chapter. And you're under no illusions that its perfect all the time or will continue to be perfect but right then and there was a sweet spot. Loved it loved it.
Mar 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Still completely unsure whether I enjoyed this book or not. The characters were intriguing and I wanted to read more about them, which probably kept me engaged and reading more. Story wise, I'm actually not sure what even happened in this book.
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Tod Wodicka's second novel, THE HOUSEHOLD SPIRIT was published by Pantheon and Jonathan Cape in June 2015.

His first novel, ALL SHALL BE WELL; AND ALL SHALL BE WELL; AND ALL MANNER OF THINGS SHALL BE WELL has been translated into Spanish, Dutch and German. It was shortlisted for The Believer Book Award. Wodicka's writing has appeared in the Guardian, Granta, Tank Magazine, South as a State of