cover image Housebreaking


Colleen Hubbard. Berkley, $17 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-33702-8

In a winning if far-fetched debut, Hubbard depicts the hardscrabble life of a young woman who, spurred on by a family feud and a desire for improved self-esteem, embarks on a Fitzcarraldo-esque task. Twenty-something and unemployed, Del Murrow gets an offer from her uncle Chuck for her abandoned childhood home, which she inherited and stands on land ripe for development. She doesn’t want to give Chuck the satisfaction of demolishing this last remnant of her immediate family, but she needs cash. As an act of revenge for how Chuck always looked down on her family, she agrees to sell the land but not the house, and in the transaction is deeded an adjacent swampy tract where, over the course of a cold winter, she moves the demolished house’s debris, proud to leave an eyesore in view of Chuck’s prospective clients. Del finds unlikely allies in her mother’s friend Eleanor; Chuck’s wife, Jeanne; and a night-shift supermarket clerk with whom she builds a tentative friendship. Despite the outlandish premise and some repetitive passages of Del’s work dismantling the house, Hubbard skillfully captures Del’s desperation while slowly unraveling the story of her late parents’ lives. This is a moving take on how a hard-knock existence can be transformed by friendship and determination. (Apr.)