The saying “If walls could talk” literally takes on a new dimension in this story when a 150-year-old house reminisces about its early days on the Indiana frontier. Called Hogarth — the namesake of the original occupants — the home is also prone to sharing his emotions.
The novella begins with present-day descendants of the home’s founding family making renovation plans. Following a brief explanation of what’s planned for the structure that has sat empty for decades, the story discusses how the house came to be built: Caleb and Jessie Hogarth, with their sons Jed and Zeke, arrive with an ox, a mule and not much more to homestead near what will eventually become the town of Sethsburg.
Each chapter introduces the hardships, joy and friendships that the family shares with nearby homesteaders. The engaging characters are fully developed with strengths and foibles, and their successes are as delightful as their setbacks are disappointing. They grow as they meet the many challenges they encounter.
Unfortunately, the story is hampered by a few stylistic missteps. The author consistently misuses apostrophes, but more distracting is the fact that each chapter ends with a brief overview or commentary from the house’s perspective. As the house recalls events in the chronology of its construction, he is prone to laugh or cry. This causes some consternation among the current-day construction workers, for example this comment as the house sheds some tears: “ ‘Hey Charlie! Where’s this water coming from? It ain’t raining and there ain’t no water in the house,’ grumbled the carpenter just as another drop fell on his sleeve.” The story is otherwise firmly based in reality, so the idea of a house expressing emotions is jarring and unnecessary.
Readers come to care about the early Hogarths, and despite the distracting emotions of the house, the story ends all too soon. With a better edit and the removal of the regrettable anthropomorphism, this story would prompt an unqualified rave review.
Also available as an ebook.