By the time she was 16, Jamie had lost everyone she loved. Hanging
on desperately to her dog, she fled after her mother's death so
that she could remain free of the social service/foster care
system. Far more than a beloved pet, the dog was all Jamie had in
the world, with the possible exception of her memories. She set out
for Dyers Corner, the place she remembered as her grandparents'
home. She wanted to see the reservoir that covered their house when
the government flooded the valley.
When Jamie finally gets to Dyers Corner, she discovers that there
isn't much to see there and the weather gets really ugly. However,
having nowhere else to go, she decides to stick around a while. A
little bit of good luck comes her way when Margaret, a savvy
elderly woman, gives her a break --- and a job as housekeeper. But
soon Margaret heads for warmer climes when the cold sets in,
leaving Jamie once more on her own, haunting the post office almost
daily for Margaret's payment.
Growing up hard and fast, Jamie clings almost fanatically to the
dog, fearing abandonment every time he goes outside. But Jamie has
to learn to trust. After choosing the wrong people for help too
many times, she realizes that she must simply depend on herself.
Unfortunately, not all of her decisions prove wise.
The dreary community of Dyers Corner seems populated solely by
broken and damaged souls. If there are any happy, well-adjusted
residents, Jamie certainly hasn't found them. She encounters only
people with heavy, scarred baggage: a man burdened with a guilt he
shouldn't claim; a man unfettered by a conscience he should have; a
man carrying a torch for a long-dead woman; and an undeserving man
who steals Jamie's love. And then there's the boy, who unravels her
The first time Jamie saw the boy, he was tied to a
You should have left him there...
But you untied him.
That one innocent act of kindness leads to unimaginable horrors. As
the townsfolk so aptly put it, the boy is not right in the head.
Once freed from his bonds, he stalks Jamie, along with animals,
family and anyone who crosses his path, littering the way with
misery. If only she had known.
With the outcome so unpredictable, you may be tempted to rush ahead
to find out what ultimately happens, but you can't. Ms. Wallace's
writing is just too starkly beautiful. Take the time to savor her
prose and relish the emotions; roll each sentence around in your
head and visualize the pictures the carefully chosen words evoke.
They are not all beautiful --- some even bordering on brutal ---
but THE HOUSEKEEPER is a brilliant story of a period in a young
girl's life memorable for its conflicts.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 22, 2011