Software tycoon Micah Taylor is living the American dream: millions of dollars in the bank, a beautiful, intelligent girlfriend, and a Seattle-based company that is taking the software industry by storm. His face adorns magazine covers, and his name appears on countless awards. Pricey clothes, fancy restaurants and exotic vacations tie up the package in a pretty little bow. But way below the shiny surface, Micah harbors painful memories that slowly rise from the depths after a cryptic letter arrives from a long-dead uncle. Upon learning he’s been given a house, Micah goes to see it, intent on selling as soon as possible. That plan changes, however, when the house turns out to be so much more than a structure. It is a place of bizarre rooms that appear and disappear, leading him on a spiritual journey he never could have anticipated.
Cannon Beach lies on a beautiful stretch of Oregon coast where the luxurious houses overlook Pacific waves and gorgeous sunsets. Most people would be thrilled to have inherited such a house, but Micah is not most people, and Cannon Beach is the last place on earth he wants to go. The sparkling waves and dramatic rocky outcroppings may be wonderfully scenic, but their beauty is overshadowed by the ugliness of Micah’s past. For there on the beach, one bright summer day, his mother ran into the waves to retrieve his beach ball…and never returned. In one afternoon, Micah’s world shattered. His mother was dead, and his father’s angry words made it painfully clear that Micah was to blame.
Enter the letter. Micah receives it on a normal day. The office buzzes with the sounds of high-powered meetings, profits being made and stocks climbing higher on the NASDAQ charts. But it all goes momentarily silent as Micah reads words penned in 1990 by his late Uncle Archie.
My great desire is that the home brings you resolve and restoration, and if the builder followed my instructions, I believe it will. It will certainly --- if you’ll forgive the cliché --- upset your apple cart if you allow it. The home is all you.
Micah is sure that the last line is a typo and should have read “yours.” He soon finds out the “you” was quite intentional. At first sight, it is nothing less than the perfect house. The layout, décor and furnishings exactly match his taste and style. Being in the house gives him a sense of peace, allowing him to relax and even sleep like he hasn’t done in years. But every now and then, Micah discovers a new room --- a room that did not exist the previous day. Some are bright, some dark, some look ambiguous, but all are powerful reflections of Micah’s soul. Strange occurrences happen in these rooms that have him facing his past and rethinking his present.
Micah is drawn back to the house with increasing frequency and lengthier stays. He enjoys deep conversations with his new friend Rick, the local mechanic, but suspects Rick knows more about the house than he’s admitting. And then there’s Sarah, beautiful and sweet with an unshakable faith. She is completely different from his girlfriend, yet he can’t stop thinking about her.
Just as his uncle’s letter stated, the house has “upset his apple cart.” Micah thought he was on top of the world, but finds himself caught between two very different worlds that are vying for his undivided attention and devotion. Which will he choose, and where will his choices take him?
James Rubart’s debut novel is compelling from beginning to end. ROOMS is one of those “just one more chapter before I go to bed” books that keeps you turning pages. Descriptions of Micah’s house and the coastal setting have enough imagery to paint a picture without going into lengthy detail. Character voices and personalities are distinct. Micah is likable, flaws and all, and relatable, despite his vast wealth. These elements combine with an intriguing plot with occasional scenes that put the reader on edge, making this a novel you’ll want to share with friends and family.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on April 1, 2010