Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santos
Published by William Morrow ISBN 978-0-06-213054-9
Trade paperback, $14.99, 376 pages
The Beach Club Book Club, as part of the Book Club Girl's book club, read Courtney Miller Santo's newest novel, Three Story House. The novel tells the story of three cousins, Lizzie, Isobel and Elyse, who spent a lot of time together as young girls.
As adults, they come together to restore a nearly condemned three story house in Memphis that belonged to Lizzie's grandmother. Lizzie' mom and stepdad own the house now, but they are in Africa doing missionary work with their young children. Lizzie has always felt like an outsider in her family, and she never knew who her real father was.
Isobel was a child star who starred in a long-running TV series when she was growing up. Now that she is an adult, she has found that TV roles have dried up, and she works on buying and restoring houses to sell them at a profit.
Elyse is a lost soul. She has never found her calling in life, flitting from one thing to another. She never seems to plan ahead and every action she takes is a reaction to something else, not something she instigates. Elyse is devastated when her younger sister announces her engagement to a man Elyse has loved since she was a teenager.
Lizzie is a soccer player, good enough to make the US Olympic team until a knee injury derails her dream. Isobel has been helping her on the mend when the chance to return to Memphis and Lizzie's grandma's home comes up. They decide to stay at the house, and using Isobel's knowledge, they attempt to renovate the home.
Elyse shows up with her broken heart, and the three cousins are reunited with a mission. The women face an uphill battle to fix the broken-down home. The contractor they hire, who knew Lizzie's grandmother, seems to be hiding something. Permits and inspections are daunting. There are also the requisite unattached males who attract the cousins' attention.
There seem to be a lot of mother issues in this story. Elyse's mom is a bridezilla's stereotypical control freak, unsympathetic to her daughter's feelings. Lizzie's mother refuses to tell her anything about her father, and appears more concerned with her religion than her daughter.
Miller's previous book, The Roots of the Olive Tree, has similar mother issues, and the lead character in that book, 117-year-old Anna, has a cameo appearance in this story. Readers of the first book will enjoy seeing Anna again, and they will like Three Story House as well.
While The Beach Club Book Club enjoyed Three Story House and the cousin angle was interesting (two of us are cousins in the book club!), we felt that maybe more could have been done with the story. We did like the home renovation storyline. As with many books who have multiple protagonists, one character seems to get a little lost in the shuffle, and we felt that way about Isobel. We also felt that the ending was somewhat abrupt.
At the end, Miller shares some of the history of so-called 'spite houses', which was fascinating stuff, that inspired her novel.
rating 3.5 of 5 stars