A Good House
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A Good House begins in 1949 in Stonebrook, Ontario, home to the Chambers family. The postwar boom and hope for the future colors every facet of life: possibilities seem limitless for Bill, his wife, Sylvia, and their three children.
In the fifty years that follow, the possibilities narrow into lives, etched by character, fate, and circumstance. Sylvia's untimely death marks her family indelibly but in ways only time will reveal. Paul's perfect marriage yields an imperfect child. Daphne unabashedly follows an unconventional path, while Patrick discovers that his happiness requires a series of compromises. Bill confronts the onset of old age less gracefully than anticipated, and throughout, his second wife, Margaret, remains, surprisingly, the family anchor.
With her remarkable ability to probe the hidden, often disturbing landscapes of love and to illuminate the complexities of human experience, Bonnie Burnard brings to her deceptively simple narrative a clarity that is both moving and profound.
the fingers that had been blasted off in the North Atlantic. Murray McFarlane, who was only an inch shorter than Paul but lanky and not so sure, not so deliberately physical in his movements, was in grade thirteen with Patrick and over the years since the summer of the circus he had gradually worked himself into the Chambers family. He had not disappeared after Daphne’s fall, as another boy might have. He ate with them if he was around when a meal was put on the table, volunteered to help
store. And he still sat in the front booths of the Blue Moon with the other men who worked uptown, the wits, as they were called. The wits knew the situation with Sylvia Chambers and they tried to accommodate it, tried to group their working bodies around it. Normally they passed the time talking politics, casually confusing the facts and enlarging the issues to the point of hopelessness, repeating like slogans the words damnpoliticians and highertaxes. Some days, for a change of pace, they
very popular. When the bathroom was absolutely finished, the men were invited back one evening for coffee and a slice of Sylvia’s mother’s specialty, double dark chocolate cake. Paul was the one picked to throw open the door on their work. Sylvia sat in a kitchen chair pretending she hadn’t been watching and listening all along, hadn’t already begun to use the toilet. She told them they’d done a tremendous job, said it would be so convenient for her, and, “Tell me, how can I ever thank you?”
the phrase work it out, and other, workmanlike phrases too: wait it out, ride it through. It being the thing that was never quite touched on. She’d been at enough weddings, although now that she was thirty-seven the regularity of these was diminishing, to be familiar with the childlike, skipping rhyme rhythms of the vows: in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, for better for worse. At least they had no kids. People used that phrase a lot too. At least she did. Have a kid. She was
have been forgiven a bit of shouting, a bit of protective rage. Perhaps they, too, were tired. Perhaps they too had long ago given rage its chance and found the returns negligible. Paul backed the truck out of the drive shed to pick Andy up at the front door of the farmhouse and after she climbed in and was belted up he smiled over at her. “We can do this,” he said. “We’ve done harder things.” Andy didn’t say anything. She was remembering when Meg was younger, when she was Meagan, and how easy