House Arrest

House Arrest

5.0 4
by Mary Morris

View All Available Formats & Editions

Mary Morris, called "a marvelous storyteller" by The Chicago Tribune, returns with the finest novel in her acclaimed career--a vividly etched, engrossing story of a nation, two remarkable women, and the meaning of freedom.

Taut with tension, filled with the telling observations of place and local character that grow out of her expertise as a travel writer,


Mary Morris, called "a marvelous storyteller" by The Chicago Tribune, returns with the finest novel in her acclaimed career--a vividly etched, engrossing story of a nation, two remarkable women, and the meaning of freedom.

Taut with tension, filled with the telling observations of place and local character that grow out of her expertise as a travel writer, House Arrest is Mary Morris's richest, most powerful novel to date.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A small Caribbean island whose people are starved for food and freedom is the setting for Morris's fourth novel (after A Mother's Love). Like Morris, who is also a travel writer (Nothing to Declare), protagonist Maggie Conover writes for a travel magazine. She has returned to la isla to update a guidebook she wrote two years earlier. It's a bad idea: during her previous visit, she secretly gave her passport to Isabel Caldern, the outspokenly disenchanted daughter of the dictator, El Caballo, so that Isabel could flee the island in disguise. Maggie's navet in returning to this totalitarian state is compounded by her behavior after she's arrested and detained in a seedy hotel. Slow to discern the danger of her position, she never contacts the embassy or a lawyer, in spite of her interrogation by a greasy government functionary, and other frightening incidents. Were this the only improbability, the reader might overlook Maggie's passivity, especially since Morris does provide some motivation for her flaky behavior. But it's hard to accept that Isabel, her mother and her daughter each achieve instant emotional intimacy with Maggie, immediately pouring out the stories of their lives in dangerously candid detail. These long, lyric confessions provoke echoes of Isabel Allende, but they lack her magic resonance. In the end, it is not Maggie's story but the claustrophobic atmosphere of a country locked in a dictator's iron grip that the reader will find unforgettable. (May)
Library Journal
Novelist (A Mother's Love, LJ 2/15/93) and travel writer (Nothing To Declare, Atlantic Monthly, 1992) Morris brings both interests together in this new novel. Maggie Conover's latest assignment for "the aging-hippie travel guide service" for which she works is in a Communist country in the Caribbean known as "la isla." On a return visit, she is detained at immigration and subsequently awaits deportation while under house arrest at a tourist hotel. With lots of free time on her hands, Maggie becomes retrospective, remembering her love for her husband and young daughter, yet her need to get away from them on these working excursions; her conflicting feelings about her employer and ecotourism; and, most especially, a woman named Isabel she met on her last visit to la isla whom she knows to be the source of her current troubles. Maggie's hopes and fears, as well as those of Isabel, estranged daughter of the island's revolutionary leader, are intimately revealed, allowing us to feel the isolation and desperation that both women experience. Recommended for women's studies and popular collections.-Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati Technical Coll.
Richard Stern
Complex mixtures of recollection and immediacy, rich shifts of movement, brilliant bits of descriptive and psychological insight, and, above all, the slow revelation of the narrator's character. -- The Chicago Tribune
Laurie Stone
Although Morris's fictional alter ego, Maggie Conover, relives her own history of family entrapment, it is the nation's subjugation under a dictator which she chronicles most sharply. -- The Village Voice
Alan Cheuse
A passionately told account of confinement at a number of levels set against a luscious natural backdrop…a poignant creation.
—(Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio's All Things Considered)
Kirkus Reviews
An American travel writer is forcibly detained on a Soviet- linked Caribbean island in this fourth novel from Morris—a murky, claustrophobic work that fails to penetrate the depths of the author's previous fiction (most recently, A Mother's Love, 1993).

Thirty-six-year-old Maggie Conover's life in Brooklyn is pleasant enough, sturdily constructed around an architect husband and a five-year-old daughter. Still, even after ten years of roaming the world updating a series of travel guides, Maggie's natural restlessness prods her to pack her bags every few months for another trek into the unknown. This time, her trip turns ominous when she's detained at customs upon arrival on an unnamed island. Implying that her detention has to do with the disappearance of Isabel, a local woman whom Maggie befriended on a previous visit, the island officials place the American under house arrest at the pleasant Hotel España. There, with nothing to do, Maggie has time to reflect on her brief relationship with the missing Isabel, only daughter of the country's despotic leader, nicknamed El Caballo. Fascinated by Isabel's reputation for defying her father, identifying with her desperate desire to flee the closed, poverty-ridden island, and physically attracted by the woman's beauty and grace, sensible Maggie did in fact uncharacteristically risk her own safety by agreeing to "lose" her passport and plane ticket so that Isabel could use them to escape. Maggie's act then can be chalked up to infatuation, but her return now is more difficult to understand. In any case, once she has had leisure to relive her quasi-erotic experience, she's abruptly released—to go back to her family a grateful and perhaps wiser woman.

Flat descriptions of dusty roads and crumbling villas alternate with the purple prose of Isabel's dramatic life story, giving the reader a sharp sense of place and character but little else of substance. Not this masterful author's best work.

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.62(d)

What People are saying about this

Richard Ford
House Arrest is a novel that sneaks into one's steadily and winningly opens's a subtle and intelligent and affecting book, fully aware of itself, fully formed.

Meet the Author

Mary Morris is also the author of the novels The Night Sky, (available from Picador), Crossroads, and The Waiting Room; two travel memoirs, Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone and Wall to Wall: From Beijing to Berlin by Rail; and the award-winning story collections Vanishing Animals and Other Stories and The Bus of Dreams. Her new story collection is The Lifeguard. Mary Morris teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

House Arrest 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hah! *falls down laughing* Those are little kids, Tyler!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago