As children, two sisters make homes for their toys out of matchboxes and shoeboxes, trying to create safe places after the loss of their mother to psychosis.
Grace, now a schoolteacher married to a doctor, appears to have a conventional life but has a breakdown during an undesired move from her beloved cottage to another house. Dinah has married a self-ordained preacher with a troubled past and tries to keep her children safely separate from the world. Meanwhile, a childhood friend is linked to a militia’s abortive attempt to blow up the FBI’s fingerprint records facility in West Virginia, and later builds an isolated survivalist compound in the mountains.
These three adults, closely bonded in childhood, are reunited on this acreage once owned by a white supremacist group, where they discover in various ways that there is no final protection, no matter how hard they strive to find it or make it.
Meredith Sue Willis teaches novel writing at New York University’s School of Professional Studies. She is the author of twenty-two books, including A Space Apart, Love Palace, Out of the Mountains: Appalachian Stories, and Oradell at Sea (West Virginia University Press). She has received literary fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and has won awards such as the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, the West Virginia Library Association Literary Merit Award, and the Appalachian Heritage Denny C. Plattner Prize for both fiction and nonfiction.
“Full of surprising twists and turns, this sharp, tough-minded, compelling novel takes us deeply into its high-low milieus and conflicted characters. A cross between noir and redemption, it’s a terrific read.”
Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait Inside My Head
“A timely story.”
“A surprisingly tender portrait of the bonds that keep friends and families afloat.”
"Their Houses gives its readers many of the best elements one could want from a novel: flawed characters portrayed generously, well-balanced plots, and a clear, conversational narrative voice that guides the reader along. With an entertaining blend of high-action farce and moving interpersonal drama, Their Houses both entertains in the moment and lingers after the last page."
American Book Review
"A timely, relatable read."
“Every move in this jolt-filled tale—told in the sweet, slyly humorous cadences of West Virginia—is perfect. Willis has the stuff from beginning to end.”
Diane Simmons, author of The Courtship of Eva Eldridge
“With deep sympathy for her characters, Willis writes in lucid and compelling prose about one of the dark undersides of American life. Their Houses reads fast, as a compelling series of mysteries, and reminds us of how much legacy we all carry, not only in our bodies and our genes but in our stories.”
Jane Lazarre, author of The Communist and the Communist’s Daughter and Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons