Summer Book Club: "The Hundred-Year House"

Join the Living Book Club this season as we tackle our summer reading list. On deck: Rebecca Makkai's "The Hundred-Year House."

Photo: Bryan Gardner

Our book clubbers are headed to the park to soak up sun and the intelligent new novel from Rebecca Makkai. "The Hundred-Year House"takes us through the haunted past of Laurelfield, a historic estate, in reverse. With the deceasing decades, the story only gets juicier. So find a shady tree to recline under and settle in to watch the family drama unfold. It's always more fun when it's not your own family, right?


Meet the Devohrs: Zee, a Marxist literary scholar who detests her parents' wealth but nevertheless finds herself living in their carriage house; Gracie, her mother, who claims she can tell your lot in life by looking at your teeth; and Bruce, her stepfather, who stockpiles supplies for the Y2K apocalypse and is perpetually late for his tee time. Then there's Violet Devohr, Zee's great-grandmother, who they say took her own life somewhere in the vast house, and whose massive oil portrait still hangs in the dining room.

Violet's portrait was known to terrify the artists who resided at the house from the 1920s to the 1950s, when it served as the Laurelfield Arts Colony -- and this is exactly the period Zee's husband, Doug, is interested in. An out-of-work academic whose only hope of a future position is securing a book deal, Doug is stalled on his biography of the poet Edwin Parfitt, once in residence at the colony. All he needs to get the book back on track -- besides some motivation and self-esteem -- is access to the colony records, rotting away in the attic for decades. But when Doug begins to poke around where he shouldn't, he finds that Gracie guards the files with a strange ferocity, raising questions about what she might be hiding. The secrets of the hundred-year house would turn everything Doug and Zee think they know about her family on its head -- that is, if they were to ever uncover them.

We tote our novels wherever we go. Where do you read your summer picks –- your morning commute, the beach on long weekends, a summer lake house? Let us know your favorite place to read in the comments below!

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