“The first time it happened,” I said,
“I nearly choked on my surprise.”
So begins Margaret Wilson’s painful telling of a relationship gone awry; something is wrong between her and Lee, she knows, but she cannot put her finger on it.
Frightened and bewildered by Lee’s smoldering anger and hurtful behavior, Margaret turns to Cooper, the counselor who works in the local elementary school where Margaret teaches.
As Cooper leads her through the struggle to maintain her emotional footing, Margaret finds unique support in the Community Room of the local public library. With the help of two elderly volunteers, she unfolds the history of the Greek Revival farmhouse she and Lee have bought in the nearby town of Hadley. Using newspaper articles, archives, deeds and probate court records, she traces four generations of the Thatcher family that lived in the house from the early 1800s to the mid-1920s.
As her relationship with Lee spins out of control, Margaret turns to the Thatchers for strength and support, losing herself in the history of a family that has become her own, finding safety in their household, finding “comfort in their common, lovely lives.”
Combine the themes of domestic abuse (present) and domestic safety (past) with a rich description of the world they share – the farmhouse itself, the rivers, fields and neighborhoods of the Middle River Valley in Hadley, Maine – and Household becomes a narrative of time and place, a mix of tension and sweetness, a balance of abuse and refuge.