My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
The problem with adoring an author’s first novel is that they either never write another, leaving you forever wanting more (Emily Croy Barker, I’m talking to you!) or they do write another but no matter how good that second book might be, you inevitably compare it to the one you fell so completely in love with and find the new book wanting. For that, more than the quality of the writing or the story, my rating may be a little lower.
Other People’s Houses is a complex, often laugh-out-loud funny, often heart-breakingly honest look into marriage, parenthood, friendship, and the big and little things that go on behind closed doors. Had the story focused solely on the central character, Frances Bloom, and her family with the neighbor characters playing smaller supporting roles, I probably would have enjoyed Other People’s Houses more than I did. Frances is a brutally honest, but kind-hearted (too kind at times) busy mother of three and mother hen to the rest of the neighborhood – children and adults alike. Some of the other characters, particularly Anne, were, despite the big dramas in their lives, boring. The frantic mundanity of Frances’s life was more interesting and much more fun than Anne’s infidelity and the aftermath.
As with Abbi WaxmanAbbi Waxman’s first novel, The Garden of Small Beginnings (which you may recall was my top read of 2017) the writing is infused with sparkling, hilarious wit. I found that in Other People’s Houses, with its more adult themes (more adult than widowhood, motherhood, and love???), Waxman tended to overuse a lot of profanity that wasn’t always necessary. Using it more sparingly during the most dramatic scenes would have given them more impact. So, though it doesn’t live up to the pure joy of reading The Garden of Small Beginnings, Other People’s Houses is a good, fun yet thought-provoking read for the summer.
If you enjoy Other People’s Houses, I highly recommend reading Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, which I think has become the seminal behind-closed-doors novel of our time.