A resident of London, Ontario, Bonnie Burnard is also the author of two award-winning story collections. A Good House is her first book to be published in the United States.
In 1952, 12-year-old Daphne Chambers falls from a trapeze and is left with a permanently asymmetrical face. In 1955, Daphne's mother, Sylvia, dies of cancer at age 40. From these two life-altering events, Canadian short story writer Burnard spins her engrossing debut novel, a traditional generational saga that unfolds with quiet grace and measure. Told from a variety of points of view, the book traces the upheavals and affirmations of the very ordinary Chambers family of Stonebrook, Ontario, from 1949 to 1997. The year after Sylvia's death, her husband, Bill, an injured WWII vet, remarries. His new wife, the unflappable Margaret, who used to work with him at the town hardware store, helps him raise his three children. Paul, the baby, becomes a hockey star and eventually a farmer, marrying young; oldest brother Patrick, a lawyer, is destined to be the keeper of family secrets; and middle child Daphne makes an eccentric choice for that time and place: she'll become the single mother of two daughters. As the years pass, the family, in nuclear and then extended form, gathers around the kitchen table to celebrate and to mourn. There are no saints, no Jobs, no Hamlets in Burnard's tale, just flawed people making the best possible choices given the passions and options of the moment, choices that sometimes require disingenuousness, stonewalling and outright lies. Changes in the initially remote town of Stonebrook are a significant strand in the narrative weave. Flashes of sly humor and an ability to avoid sentimentality are some of Burnard's skills, and the narrative's calm flow (once one gets past an initial excess of detail) builds to a deeply moving story of the truths of family life. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour. (Sept.) FYI: A bestseller in Canada, this novel won the 1999 Giller Prize. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
This 1999 Giller Prize winner and Canadian best seller takes as its canvas 48 years in the lives of an Ontario family, beginning with hardware-store owner Bill Chambers and his wife, Sylvia, who soon dies. The book seeks not to dazzle but simply to present the highs and lows, the experiences ordinary and extraordinary, of a "normal" family. Yet the characters are so fully realized that one feels one has lived with them and knows them, as usually happens in Trollope's novels or in those of another Canadian, Carol Shields (although Burnard takes in several lives, while Shields generally focuses on one). Even the understated titleDit isn't really a book about a houseDhas something to say about its solidity and graceful prose. One can even forgive Burnard occasional gaffe, like having one of her characters own a Mustang in 1963. This could easily become an Oprah book. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/00.]DRobert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
"[An] incandescent first novel." --The New Yorker"A Good House is a deep read. You keep finding more and more satisfaction in the unshowy craft, the unique vision of this writer who can tell you hard truths, hopefully." --Alice Munro, author of The Love of a Good Woman"The finest novel published in some years in our country. Its grace, its generosity, its humanity are present on each of its pages." --Carol Shields, The Ottawa Citizen"Burnard soon proves, in this increasingly intricate and rewarding book, to have a keen appreciation for the sad, surprising, joyous, important things that happen to people whose lives, by every demographic measure, could be called normal in the extreme... Burnard's painstaking focus on seemingly mundane details makes the events that shape her characters' lives not only believable but also somehow bigger than the moment, universally true." --Louisa Kamps, The New York Times"A deeply moving story of the truths of family life." --Publishers Weekly (starred)"Wondrous...Burnard unrolls the tapestry of the narrative without ceremony or writerly pyrotechnics, in a deceptively simple style reminiscent of The Bird Artist by Howard Norman...all that life has to offer is served up effortlessly, with clarity, understanding and insight...a gem of a book." --Valerie Ryan, The Seattle Times"By subject and style, Burnard is in the territory of Jon Hassler and Annie Proulx, in the ranks of Alice Munro and Carol Shields." --Robert Allen Papinchak, Chicago Tribune