Yazzie's Reviews > House of Sticks

House of Sticks by Peggy Frew
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Aug 30, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: first-reads

I had a lot of difficulty writing this review because I really, really wanted to like this book, and I want to support any young, talented female Australian authors, but unfortunately the only effect it had on me was to depress me.

My biggest problem with this book is that I found it completely devoid of joy. The descriptions of domestic life were interesting and believable, yet Bonnie never seemed to enjoy any of it, or be aware of her extraordinary privilege. Her husband works from home and appears to help around the home and with the children constantly, and she has the option of well-paid, freelance work if she should desire it, yet she finds every day a struggle. She seems to be suffering from depression, and the book would be far more interesting if it had been about this, or dealt with it in some way. This is not helped by the way the author repeatedly tells us that Bonnie loves her kids and husband, rather than shows us proof of this.

Instead, the focus of the story is on the small changes that occur around the house when her husband employs his "mentally ill" friend Doug. Bonnie is incredibly passive aggressive towards both her husband and Doug whenever Doug does (or she thinks he has done) something she doesn't like. Not once does she act assertively, and she barely mentions her issues to her husband yet becomes angry at him for not fixing them. Unfortunately, Bonnie is the only well-drawn character, and her husband never appears to have much personality.

The storyline involving Doug builds some suspense, and I kept reading to find out what would happen when I otherwise may have given up. Again, this could have been interesting if it became the focus of the story- is Doug crazy? Has he done any of the things Bonnie thinks he did? Will he hurt someone in the family? - but this storyline leads Absolutely. Nowhere. and none of these questions are answered.

Instead, the books turned out to be a mother and wife who struggled with being these things, and never really found a way to deal with this. There are no lessons to be learned; the book is simply a portrait of a life that is neither joyful nor particularly interesting, and I found it difficult to care what happened to any of the characters by the end.
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