Guest House
by Barbara K. Richardson

Bay Tree Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-0-981-95771-5.
Reviewed by Judy Miller
Posted on 05/11/2010

Fiction: Mainstream

On the surface the characters in Guest House make rash decisions, but at a deeper level, their life journeys have brought them to where they now make choices that will affect the rest of their lives and impact each other.

Melba Burns, married and divorced, and in her fifties, yearns for peace and the simpler life. She buys a run-down farmhouse in a squatty section of Portland, Oregon, quits her successful job as a realtor, and abandons driving after witnessing a horrible accident. Melba loves to take care of things and people. She has taken on a huge project by purchasing the house. Her project becomes more complicated when she meets JoLee Garry.

JoLee, pregnant and married at a young age, is looking for a way up and out. She moves in with Melba, having recently left Gene, her husband, and abandoned Matt, her young son. JoLee brings a lot of chaos into Melba's life while she chases after the life she feels she is owed.

Richardson does a great job making the scenes and characters pop. The intersection and subsequent intermingling of the characters' lives, values and beliefs is painful, all too real, and yet, there is so much hope. Guest House takes readers by the heart and draws them into world that is full of betrayal, sorrow, selfishness, love, and compassion. The reader will think about Guest House long after finishing the story.

Barbara K. Richardson earned her MFA in Creative Writing at Easter Washington University. Her work has appeared in Northwest Review, Cimarron Review, Quarterly West, and Dialogue. This is her first novel. Visit her website.

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