When tragedy steals her future, can Leah learn to trust again?
It is the autumn of 1920, and Leah Breckenridge is desperate to find a way to provide for her young daughter. After losing her husband and infant son, she is angry at God and fearful about the days ahead. Finding refuge in a boarding house run by her late husband’s aunt, Leah begins the slow process of mending her heart.
It is the people who surround her – or perhaps this very house – that reach into her heart with healing? As Leah finds peace tending to an abandoned garden, can she find a way to trust God with her future?
The House on Malcolm Street is an interesting sort of story about a woman in mourning, angry at God and feeling very prickly towards other people. Beyond the edge of poverty, she finds herself at the mercy of her deceased husband’s great aunt which is something she has great difficulty reconciling herself with. However, after a while she learns to love this kind elderly woman and realizes that she isn’t simply “taking” by living under her roof, but is also giving in her care for Aunt Mari. But there is a man who lives in the same house – a relative of her husband’s – who seems to resent her presence there. After one awkward moment after another, one begins to wonder if they will ever get through a conversation civilly and begin to enjoy one another’s company. Whether this happens or not, I cannot say, for it might upset the reader’s experience of the book to give away such an insight.
There are many themes that run concurrently through the novel around the issue of healing. The idea of working with God’s land, reaping bounty from the land and from the trees is one strong theme in this novel. Leah takes great pleasure in finding treasures of herbs and weeds in the garden to provide food and cultivates this aspect along with her mending heart. There is also the bounty of the apple trees which is the first big job that reaps the greatest rewards in convincing her she is needed and has value in the house.
Next came the duty she is pushed into with caring for the deathly ill family down the railroad line. This is the typical “do something for someone else and you won’t feel so bad dwelling on your own problems” sort of theme. Not my favourite, but….
Another is a duo story line of reconciliation between a parent and child which brings healing not only to the people involved but others as well.
Wow – that is a lot of themes packed into this one novel and one may wonder if there are too many, but I think not. I think they each contributed to making the story a richer novel with more opportunities for readers to identify with.
The back cover suggests that the house itself may play a part in the healing of Leah, but I don’t think this is ever realized in this story. Sometimes an object can be a catalyst or a thing of beauty that becomes a sort of living thing in a story, but I really do not feel that this happened in this story. The house itself was just a house – it was the people in the house that made the difference in each other’s lives.
What is my overall impression with The House on Malcolm Street, you ask? It is not a light hearted story. The issues it deals with are heavy and make for a daunting read sometimes. Does it have a lot of meaning packed into one novel? Yes, it is likely one you won’t forget about and that you will glean your own significance and meaning from. It’s kind of a rainy day book, if you know what I mean.
I have read other books by Leisha Kelly that I enjoyed much more, notably Julia’s Hope, Emma’s Gift and Katie’s Dream.
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