The House Guest by Deborah L. Norris follows the life of Maggie Davis, a middle-aged widow living in a large Victorian home in 1950s Nebraska with her daughter. The house also doubles as a bed and breakfast, so new boarders come in and out to gather around Maggie’s kitchen table for conversation about life and the latest gossip. As Maggie is still recovering from her husband’s tragic death, she has a lot to contend with in her own life, but she’s also a keen observer of her visitors. A scheme to swindle Maggie out of her property leads to a striking climax in which we learn there’s more to Maggie than meets the eye.
The House Guest is all about relationships, big and small – the town of Tilden has no shortage of drama. Given that the novel takes place in the early 1950s, it harkens back to a time before the internet, and when television was just starting – so conversation with family and friends was a major source of information and entertainment. It’s a pleasant reminder of yesteryear, and really does read like a time capsule of a certain era. Deborah’s description of the house also reveals a sturdiness that seems lost to the transience of modern life. It’s a quiet, old-fashioned novel – comforting in its calm attention to detail.
Though the novel is a period drama, it also shows people’s timeless and universal humanity. Each person who visits Maggie has a novel’s worth of story of their own, making The House Guest a lively and entertaining literary read focusing both on the small details of people’s lives and the big issues that shape us. ~ Lysa Grant, SPR