House of Miracles proclaims itself to be “a collection of interrelated stories about love.” And it is. But it’s also much more than that. This is a collection of vignettes that, when combined, give piercing insight into the lives of multiple characters. And it is softly, quietly, mightily beautiful.
This book reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, with its eclectic, interrelated ensemble cast. In this case, though, time changes as well as point of view, and the narrators aren’t revealed at the start of the stories, so the reader is kept guessing. I enjoy being kept on my literary toes, so to speak, and had great fun trying to guess whose story I was in as well as “when” I was and how this character would tie in with the others.
Ulrica Hume’s writing has a soaring, airy, yet realistic quality that I truly enjoyed. I found myself underlining sentences, not because of their profundity, but because of the beautifully simplistic way she has of making the everyday seem poetic. For instance, of Leong, an immigrant from Thailand whose husband’s life had come to a violent early end,
Her heart was a rain-filled flower.
Or this gem, as Janet ponders her future while assisting the elderly Mrs. von Meurs:
I feared that one day I’d find myself in the same situation: old and alone in a crumbling gingerbread house of sweetly decaying, once beautiful dreams.
Don’t let all my talk of beauty fool you, though: there is sadness in these stories, too. Heartbreak, loneliness, and uncertainty abound. But through it all, there is love. And isn’t that what life is all about?
All in all: High-quality writing and interesting, touching subject matter. Much more moving than I expected. (I’m still not entirely sure why, but the parts about the hope chest made me well up. [I’m about to cry just typing this, actually.])