Muir House

( 22 )

Overview

“You’ll find home one day. Sure as sweet tea on a hot afternoon.”

Words from Willa Muir’s sketchy childhood haunt her dreams and color her days with longing, regret, and fear. What do the words mean? Willa is far from sure.

When Hale Landon places a ring on her finger, Willa panics, feeling she can’t possibly say yes when so much in her past is a mystery. Bent on sorting out her history, Willa returns to Rockwall, Texas, to the Muir House Bed ...

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The Muir House

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Overview

“You’ll find home one day. Sure as sweet tea on a hot afternoon.”

Words from Willa Muir’s sketchy childhood haunt her dreams and color her days with longing, regret, and fear. What do the words mean? Willa is far from sure.

When Hale Landon places a ring on her finger, Willa panics, feeling she can’t possibly say yes when so much in her past is a mystery. Bent on sorting out her history, Willa returns to Rockwall, Texas, to the Muir House Bed & Breakfast, a former funeral home.

But the old place holds her empty memory close to itself. Willa’s mother utters unintelligible clues from her deathbed, and the caretaker of the house keeps coveted answers carefully protected. Throw in an old flame, and Willa careens farther away from ever knowing the truth.

Set in a growing suburb of Texas, The Muir House explores trauma, healing, love new and old, and the life-changing choices people make to keep their reputations intact.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310330332
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 6/27/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,347,946
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary DeMuth is the author of several southern novels, including A Slow Burn, Life in Defiance, and the Christy award finalists, Watching the Tree Limbs and Daisy Chain. She’s also written four parenting books and a memoir, Thin Places. She’s passionate about the written word, teaching, and mentoring writers. Mary lives in Texas with her husband, Patrick, and their three children.

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Read an Excerpt

The Muir House


By Mary E. DeMuth

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2011 Mary E. DeMuth
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-33033-2


Chapter One

Seattle, March 2009

In that hesitation between sleep and waking, that delicious longing for dawn to overwhelm darkness, Willa Muir twisted herself into the sheets, half aware of their binding, while the unknown man's face said those words again.

You'll find home one day.

She opened her eyelids, forced wakefulness, maligning sleep's lure. Her two legs thrust themselves over the side of the storm-tossed bed. Toes touched hardwoods, chilling her alert, finally. She pulled the journal to herself in the dusky gray of the room, opened its worn pages, then touched pen to paper. She copied the words as she heard them. The same sentences she'd written year after year in hopes of deciphering its message, understanding it fully. But they boasted the same syntax, the same prophecy, the same shaded sentences spoken by a dream man with a broken, warbled voice. A faceless man of the South, words erupting like sparklers from the black hole of Willa's memory.

Why couldn't she remember the man? Understand his cryptic message?

Something stirred then. A flash of recognition. Willa closed the journal, placed her pen diagonally on top, then curled herself into a sleep ball, covers over her head like a percale cocoon. She forced her eyes shut, willing her mind to remember the glinting.

There! Like an Instamatic from her childhood, the flashbulb illuminated a gold ring. The man didn't cherish it on his finger. He held it like a monocle, as if he could see through it clear to eternity. Through that ring, a circular snapshot of the man clarified. Though the rest of his face faded into blue mist, his eye, wrinkle-creased and wise, focused like an eye doctor's chart under the perfect lens. A crocodile-green iris circled a large black pupil, its whites streaked pink with lacy vessels. It winked at Willa, or maybe it merely blinked. Hard to decipher, looking at one eye. The eye held sadness and grace, laughter and grief — and an otherworldly hint of promise. Willa memorized that eye behind the gold ring.

But like every other snatch of Willa's memory from that vacant memory of a four-year-old, the eye vaporized.

So familiar.

Yet so unfamiliar.

Nearly the green of Blake's eyes so long ago, those bewitching, enticing eyes she'd made herself turn away from, breaking her heart. Shattering his.

She returned to her journal, sketching the ring, the hazy face. The muddy-green eye she highlighted with an olive pencil. Light played at the window shade. She tugged it down so it would fling ceilingward, which it did in flapping obedience. She opened the sash, ushering in Seattle's evergreen perfume. The crisp air stung her Southern arms with goose bumps as she inhaled its scent. Fifty-five degrees in the morning felt like ice to Willa, even now. But facts were facts: You just couldn't compare the air's pristine cleanness to the South's sometimes thicker-than-mud humidity. And if she could help it, she'd never breathe Texas again.

Mother made it quite clear. Not even Southern hospitality could woo Willa back, not with Mother's hateful words swirling through the heat.

Willa fingered Mrs. Skye's letter atop her pile of books. "Come home," the caretaker wrote, in plainer-than-plain English — dark blue letters on crisp white stationery. "I need your help remodeling the Muir House. Need your expertise. Besides, your mother needs you. She's fading as fast as the house's paint peels. It's time."

Willa shook her head in response. "No," she said to her room, her heart, her will. "I can't. Won't."

But something deep inside told her it was time to find home.

Willa folded Mrs. Skye's letter in half. Instead of quartering it and returning it to its envelope, she tore it into confetti. When she left the room, the confetti stuck to her bare feet.

Chapter Two

"If you ask me," Hale said, "it's a sign." He took a drink of sludge, what the oasis Café called vitality, and smiled. Green bits clung to his perfectly white teeth.

"Rinse," Willa said.

"Green teeth again?"

She nodded.

He emptied the small water glass, a throwback from fifties diner ware, swirled a bit, then swallowed the whole mess. He smiled. "Satisfied?"

"Quite." She picked at her smoked salmon frittata. "I saw an eyeball, Hale. Nothing more."

"You said it was green, right?"

She nodded.

"So it wasn't mine, then." He held a hint of sadness in his blue eyes, the color of Seattle sky after the fog lifted.

Willa kept her gaze there, willing herself to forget Blake's envy-green. She held Hale's carefree blue to her heart.

Hale made a circle with his index finger. "Au contraire. You saw a ring. A golden ring. The Egyptians —"

"Quit it with the Egyptians. For you, everything goes back to the Egyptians."

Hale shook his head. He pulled her hand to his, held it perfectly. Not too tight to make her palms sweat, not too loose to make her wonder. "The Nile River," he said as if he hadn't heard her scolding, "provided the first rings, woven from the sedges and rushes nestled next to papyrus plants." With his other hand, he circled her naked wedding finger. "The symbol of eternity."

"Quit getting creepy and stalkerish on me."

"I'm not Blake."

"I know."

"Then don't pull the stalker card."

He withdrew his hand, then winked one dusk-blue eye. "A ring has no beginning or end. Like life, it circles around itself, returning from where it came." He shaped his free hand like a spyglass, looked out the café's window onto the sidewalk. Then he spied it on her. "It's a symbol of the sun and moon, this shape. And the inside isn't dead air, it's a portal to the unknown."

"I have no portal."

"Everyone does."

"Nope, you're the one who told me I had a wall. Perhaps I am a wall."

Hale sighed. "I didn't say you were a wall. Just that you're so afraid of love that you've built fortresses around yourself. Like your mother. Like the Egyptians. But I —"

"Focus," she said. She squeezed his hand, then withdrew. "This isn't about my mother — who, by the way, hollered at me, told me to leave once and for all. It's not about ancient Egypt or you storming my walls. It's about my life." She sipped her green tea pomegranate infusion, then nibbled on dry flax toast.

"I'm well aware of your life. Of your obs —"

"I swear if you say obsession one more time, I'll break up with you."

He laughed, and when he did, his brown curls bounced in the effort. Hale's goatee, longer than a real goat's, swayed in the mayhem. She did love this man, loved him right on down to his Salvation Army shoes. He drank more sludge, not bothering to rinse. "I'm in your life for the long haul, Wills," he said. "Besides, who else would accompany you on your valiant quest?"

He did have a point. All those years piecing together her past in yellow notebooks, journals, and scraps of paper. All those newspaper clippings. Most men — most people — would think her, well, obsessed. But since when did seeking the truth equal obsession? "You know where you came from," she said.

"Raised by wolves." He howled.

She shook her head. The oasis Café's patrons didn't even look their way, didn't seem to care that her boyfriend fancied himself a werewolf. Stranger folk than he frequented this offbeat place. "Maybe I was too," she said to the coffee-drenched air between them.

"You weren't. You had a mom and a dad."

"Had is the appropriate word. I'm a twenty-six-year-old orphan," she said.

"She's still alive, Wills."

"She said, 'You are worthless and ugly and stupid and not my child!' "

"Why do you keep revisiting her words?"

"You're the one who brought it up. And having to talk about it again breaks my heart. She's a closed subject, you understand?"

Hale nodded. "But your parents loved you, right? Before she sent you away, your mother took care of you."

"Rote, Hale. Something she had to do because Daddy made her. Sometimes she tried to fulfill requirements of motherhood, a miser with affection, but most of the time she scowled. Daddy? He loved extravagantly." She felt her voice quaver. Daddy's eyes sparkled like Hale's, the purest azure, which made her longing for Hale make sense, in a pathetic sort of way. Like her counselor used to say, always looking for a father.

She looked out the window, noting one cumulus cloud shaped like an anchor, only to dissipate.

Hale spooned multigrain hot cereal into his mouth. "Gruel," he winced. "I hate the cholesterol specter."

She shook her head, weary of his health kick.

"Sorry. I'm becoming a me-monster again. Listen." He twirled his spoon in a flourish. "Wills, I know we don't know the inciting incident — that empty place in your memory. But we do know the rising action, the climax."

She looked at her lap, brushed a crumb away. "Neither of us knows the ending."

"But perhaps together, we will." He reached again for her hand. She let him take it. "Maybe we'll be the denouement."

"I have too much baggage." She speared a wedge of grapefruit.

"How colloquial."

"I think the word you're looking for is cliché."

"Touché!"

"Come on, Hale. This is real." Another grapefruit piece. She wished she'd doused it with evil processed sugar.

"Maybe it's not."

"Maybe you're annoying," she said.

"Maybe. But you like me, remember?" He smiled.

She returned the favor.

He took another bite of gruel, then swallowed. "You're why the vena amoris is so important to me." He wiped his hands on a patchwork napkin, pulling her left hand across the table. He pointed to her ring finger.

"You've completely lost me."

"Exactly. But I hope to gain you."

She raised her eyes to his, and she understood. His face, unlike the man in the dream, snapped into perfect focus. Those eyes, that face, that man, his heart — wanted to marry her — empty memories notwithstanding.

His left hand held hers, but with his right, he fumbled through his thrift-store khakis. He pulled out a simple gold ring. "one ring to rule them all," he said.

Willa's heart hiccupped. She wanted to pull her hand away, wanted to run out of the oasis Café screaming, but fear magnetized her to the metal chair. "I'm not easily ruled," she choked out. Panic fluttered inside. Memories of yelling, shrieking, hating swirled in the cavity of her heart. Daddy. Mother. Willa. The big white house. A broken heart.

He glided the ring onto her finger. "The vena amoris is the vein of love. Originating here." He touched the simple gold ring on her finger, "And venturing to the heart." He pointed to his own, thankfully.

"You know I don't do marriage." As the words passed her tongue, her teeth, her lips, she saw his wince as if she'd slapped him.

"You love me." Hale's hand still rested on his heart.

She nodded. That truth, she knew. Willa felt the ring ruling her finger, threatening to travel the vena amoris to her heart. "I need to go." She gathered her purse, her hand, that ring, and stood.

Hale didn't stand. Didn't chase after her. He sat there, wet-eyed and slapped, his face like a scolded boy's, not a man's.

She wrestled with the ring, expecting it to glide off as easily as it slid on, but it wouldn't. "I can't get it off."

"Keep it. Let it remind you." Hale said these words to the patchwork napkin, not to her.

"I need to go home," she said.

He lifted his eyes to hers now. Cleared his throat as if he wanted to unclog his voice of emotion. "What if home is a person, Wills? What if I am your home?"

She tore away from his eyes while his words chased her all the way home.

Chapter Three

They say a woman's wealth, her true identity, rests in the richness of relationships, but "they" have it all wrong. What a woman really needs, what truly defines her, is four solid walls. A house with good bones, a yard sprinklered in the summertime, a creaking porch swing, overflowing window boxes. Castled there, she safeguards her secrets, particularly if those mysteries lie concealed in cardboard boxes in the attic.

Willa sanded the importance of both — hearth and secrets — into her marrow, nailed them like Luther's treatises to her heart while she walked seven blocks toward home, still trying to pry Hale's ring from her finger, his hopeful words from her heart.

Hale was beautiful. In every way. She knew this. Others confirmed it. He worked on behalf of Seattle's working poor, helping secure affordable housing. Homes for those without houses. And he loved her. Why he did, she couldn't quite make her heart understand.

With every logical step toward home, while Green Lake glistened under the morning sun, she scolded herself in cadence.

He loves me.

I should marry him.

He should marry me.

We should marry each other.

Should, should, should.

Such a mathematical equation. Hale plus Willa equaled marriage, the ring being the plus sign making it all balance. She would have the security a fatherless girl wanted. He would have someone needy to rescue and coddle. A perfect match.

Willa pulled the locket from behind her tank top. A heart dangled as faithfully as it had years and years before. She opened it. Blue-eyed Daddy on one side, five-year-old Willa with crooked teeth on the other. She wanted to ask Daddy what to do, how to react to Hale, what to say, but his smiling picture said no words. And his death confirmed that he'd never speak life over her again. In that recollection, grief moistened her eyelids. How long would she miss that man? Forever? With every milestone, the pain augmented like a terrible exclamation point to his absence.

She squinted back the tears in the sunlight, pulled in the halcyon air, and smelled fire. Odd that someone would stoke fire from kindling this time of year. The chill of spring left weeks ago, replaced by Northwest heat — a balmy seventy-two degrees at high noon. Still, some folks relished cozy liked they chugged their coffee fix — often.

Willa looked at the ring, how it captured the sun. Hale said its innards were a gateway to the unknown, yet now her finger filled that void. He must've thought she was his unknown. But was he hers? Could a person become a home?

She wanted to holler a yes, jump on Hale's back under the watchful eye of Gas Works Park, and let him run her down the grass incline toward Lake Union while she screamed and laughed and hung crazy to his shoulders. She could picture such a thing. Could feel her hair windwrapping her face, could smell the faint hint of Hale's evergreen cologne. But she couldn't make the daydream a reality. Which is why she had to go home now, to sift once again through the large box of clippings in her attic, to carefully weave the broken story of her past so she could finally make sense of today's reticence.

A fire truck screamed by her, glassy red. She smelled its exhaust, tasted it on her tongue. It turned right.

Onto her street.

Something inside, a primal horror, made her run flat out.

She turned the corner. Four houses down on the right, it squealed next to others of its kind, catty-corner this way and that. Hoses hooked up to the block's fire hydrant spewed water onto her fuchsia house.

She rushed to the sidewalk facing her porch, a cry leaving her mouth. But in the cacophony of fire, no one heard the scream. Willa's skin absorbed the heat of her bungalow's flames licking, tasting, biting, consuming her home, its secrets, while firefighters sprayed pathetic sprinklers onto the rafters that buckled beneath the attack of flames. Still, she rushed at it. If she ran fast enough, she could rescue her journal, the drawing of the man's green eye.

But arms caught her. "Stand back, miss," a fireman said.

"But that's my house. My —"

"I'm sorry." He said it like he might've meant it, but she knew he couldn't possibly. Had he not interrupted her, "my everything" would've been recorded by the day, showing all of Seattle that her research was her everything. Even more than Hale and his ring. More than white window boxes or a rickety porch swing or fuchsia siding.

She'd been so close. And now every shred of evidence belched flames and smoke. She struggled against the fireman's embrace, smelling soot. He held her back, saying I'm sorry over and over again. She looked up to see the roof implode on itself, sparks twirling to the sky like unwanted confetti after a parade.

Home lost its fight. The fire won — everything.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Muir House by Mary E. DeMuth Copyright © 2011 by Mary E. DeMuth. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 27, 2011

    Kept Me Captivated

    I won a contest that netted me a free copy of The Muir House, and I was excited to read Mary DeMuth. I was familiar with her but hadn't read any of her books. Let me start with my disappointment. Initially I had trouble getting into the book, because I just felt too many sentences, at least in the first chapters, were overwritten. She seemed to try too hard to make every sentence unique. I know that sounds good, but too many unusual word choices simply slowed down the story for me.

    That being said, once I picked up the book again, I was sucked into the story. While Willa and her two love interests frustrated me with their fickleness (or weirdness), I had to admit that they were very realistic. We all make choices that don't seem to be the wisest or that seem at odds with our general personality or professed beliefs. Willa's struggles with her mother touched a tender spot in my heart, as my own mother/daughter relationships (as daughter and as mother) have not always been as pain-free as we believe they should be.

    DeMuth sustained the mystery well through the book, keeping the pages turning as I attempted to unravel Willa's history that kept her from moving forward with her life. The funeral home turned B&B was a creepily delicious touch for the story.

    I still recommend The Muir House as a good read; just make sure you have time to put aside other things because you'll want to finish it right away.

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  • Posted August 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Captivating read!

    This was the first book I have read from Mary DeMuth but i have had good things about her writing style and I was disappointed. I tend to make a decision while reading the first book from any author if I like their writing style and If I will be reading anymore books from that Author. Well Mary DeMuth I like and look forward to reading more books from her.



    Willa's story is so real and relevant to many even today. This makes her character so easy to relate too for many.



    The reader is immediately, from the very first paragraph in, DeMuth's rich details and interesting character paint an amazing view of these people and Rockwell Texas and the Bed and Breakfast. There are many circumstances we can all relate to.



    This is one of those book I couldn't wait to pick up and read and hated to put down! One I highly recommend.

    i was given a copy of this book to review from zandervan. for more in visit The Frugal Navy Wife

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  • Posted August 16, 2011

    FINDING FORGIVENESS AND LOVE! THE MUIR HOUSE BY MARY DEMUTH...

    THE MUIR HOUSE by Mary DeMuth is an interestinginspirational contemporary romance set in small town Texas. The plot is interesting,engaging,believable and will kept your attention. The characters are believable,engaging and will capture your heart. It has romance,secrets,childhood dreams,trauma,healing,love,fatih,choices people make to keep their reputations intact,mystery,drama,fears and triumphs. While Willa is looking for her home,she will find her home and so much more.Finally she will find real love,understanding,her reality,and the truth that has eluded her all her life with a mother who she believes didn't love her and a father who she had on a pedistral.Enter Hale, who loves her deeply and will give her room to find her "home". Than their is Blake,an old friend,and old flame.This is a coming of age story with powerful secrets,conflict,haunting mysteries about Muir House,and the story of yearning and redemption. The Muir House is a must read for any romance,mystery readers. It has twists and turns you want see coming.This is a story of complex lives and troubled characters. A must read. The author shows the reader the true meaning of family and faith. This book was received for the purpose of review from the publisher.Details can be found at Zondervan and My Book Addiction Reviews.

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  • Posted August 4, 2011

    An Engaging Read

    Here is a book that, when get to reading it, you surely have spent well every single minute you spent on it. It's a love story, yes, but so much more as well. 'The Muir House' is, even just with the packaging (a.k.a book cover and synopsis), the type of book that can't stay on my shelf for long, un-resisted. I had high expectations for it, and I'm glad to say that I wasn't at all disappointed. It's been a while since a book kept me up because I couldn't put it, but this was one I just HAD to finish even though it meant reading deep into the night. The reader is immediately, from the very first paragraph on, pulled into rich, metaphorical descriptions, completely lovable -and unique- characters, and a story that anyone will be able to relate to at one level or another. It's amazing how the author slyly pulls at the reader's curiosity by subtly hinting at Willa's past throughout the first half of the book. The questions arise within in droves. It certainly isn't overbearing, though, and makes it all the more delicious as the story unfolds. The romance is completely sublime and one of my favorite aspects of the novel (believe it or not). It's not shallow, superficial, like is the case with so many Christian romance novels. It was based on so much more, a big part being in touch with God's will for their life together. And real, because as is often the case in life, it takes awhile for us to realize what the Lord is telling us, and even if we do know, we insist on being stuborn. Eventually, though, as the story depicts, the way back home is found, whatever events have to happen in the process. One negative aspect that I did notice, though, was with the character Willa and the searching she had to go through that makes up her story. She's a wonderful person, yes, and you'll surely love her by the end of the novel. However, a couple of times reading the accounts of her struggle just got redundant and overbearingly self-centered. I found myself thinking, 'Oh, just get over yourself already and move on!". This passes quickly, though, and even if it bugs you through the book, the character Hale will surely make up for it. ;) It's a beautiful, rich story of the journey it takes to come home; where-ever 'home' God might have planned for us, and as the story brings across, it's often not at all where we expect to find it.

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  • Posted August 3, 2011

    A Compelling Read

    Willa Muir has a dark hole in her memory-one year of her life, when she was four years old, is missing. Now in her mid-twenties, Willa is haunted by this lost year catching only glimpses of it in dreams, glimpses that only deepen the mystery of what happened, not provide answers.

    She returns to her home in Rockwall, Texas, to help convert her family home from a funeral home to a bed and breakfast. In part she is returning to seek answers but she is also running from a man who has asked her to marry him. Willa's missing year torments her and prevents her from making the commitment to him.

    This character-driven story seems to move at the pace of a lazy Southern summer afternoon. But this is deceiving, As Willa moves deeper into her search for that missing year, thunderstorms build on the horizons and move in, providing twists and surprises, keeping the reader hooked and turning pages until the final revelations.

    Willa keeps peeling back layers of the onion of her life, revealing who she is, who she was, and who she is becoming. Some of the layers hurt, some confuse, some comfort but all lead to a satisfying conclusion.

    Mary DeMuth weaves a story of romance, determination, family dysfunction, and God's ultimate love through characters that are flawed and human, just like the reader. No superheroes here. Just people moving through life, seeking answers as best they can. People who are real. People we care about.

    I thank Zondervan for providing me a copy to review and for giving me the freedom to write honestly.

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  • Posted August 3, 2011

    The Muir House was the best book I have read this summer.

    Mary DeMuth has done it again with strong characters, an engaging storyline, and raw emotions. Every reader will relate to Willa, a modern female protagonist who is trying to find her way in life by analyzing the past and looking for "happiness". Like many real life readers, happiness may be found right under our nose with the one's we love the most. A great story, one that leaves the reader thinking long after the last page.

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  • Posted July 27, 2011

    I could not put it down!!

    If you have ever taken a breath, cried a tear, felt a broken heart, or wondered what the future holds, then this is a book for you.
    The main character asks herself why she has blocked out part of her past. How can she face the future as a happy person, with a hole in herself? She just feels the need to run away from life.
    You will be on the edge of your seat, hanging on to hope and the discovery of truth.
    I loved this book!! I know that the life we all live, holds a little truth-searching and love-finding,that brings us all a bit closer together.

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  • Posted July 26, 2011

    So much better than I expected!

    The Muir House by Mary DeMuth is about a young, determined woman named Willa Muir who is looking for home and a missing year, a missing memory. She turns down a marriage proposal believing her life is too unstable with missing memories. Willa was starting to piece together some fragments when the house she was staying at in Seattle burns to the ground. She feels driven back to where she grew up-Rockwall, Texas. There she tries to sort through her feelings about her deceased father, her dying mother, her old boyfriend, the caretaker of Muir funeral home turned Bed and Breakfast, and the fractured memories that come back to her as she uncovers answers.


    I appreciate that Willa is a strong-willing woman, undeterred by those who think the past should be left hidden, buried, or forgotten. There were moments when I wanted to keep turning pages to discover what happened next, but I had to put it down to chew on the concepts Demuth creatively wove into the storyline.


    The Muir House includes mystery, suspense, romance, and healing in an order I did not expect. I would definitely recommend this book.


    I received this complimentary copy from Zondervan to read and give an honest review.

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  • Posted July 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Muir House by Mary DeMuth

    Mary DeMuth has written a page-turner that had me holding my breath as I turned the next page. I questioned, "What happens next?" more than once throughout reading The Muir House.

    Meet Willa Muir. An interior decorator who's been "cutting" since she was a young girl. A woman afraid to commit her life to another, because she has a hole in her existence. She can remember every year of her life, but one...

    Hale wants to marry Willa, as well as see her whole. He's reminded her of her need for Jesus, but he can't convince her to marry him. So he lets her go.

    As Willa returns to the Muir House in Texas, will she be able to fill the hole in her past, find forgiveness for those who've never loved her, and find her home?

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Muir House by Mary DeMuth. DeMuth's characters are so real they could live next door. One of the things I love about her writing is how much truth about human nature is embedded in every word she puts on the page. This is what keeps me turning pages like I check my facebook home page. I want to know what happens next. I want to see what's going on in her character's lives. I want more. And I get it.

    Mary has a way of writing that keeps the answers a chapter away. In order to find out what the new connection is, one has to keep reading. She mentions one thing at the start of the book, and it isn't until the end that it all comes together and back around to the first thing.

    I highly recommend The Muir House for summer reading or your Christmas wish list. Then pass it on to a friend. I know I'm going to!

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  • Posted July 12, 2011

    An Up Till 5 a.m. Read

    Mary DeMuth has produced yet another powerful story that will be hard to put down. Willa Muir knows there's something unexplained in her early years. But what happened? Who is the man she dimly remembers, but the memory always escapes? Why was her mother always cruel and rejecting? Her father so kind and protecting? She must resolve the many childhood mysteries before she can accept Hale's proposal and look forward to a happy marriage. Will her temporary move home to the former funeral home help resolve the mysteries? Or her mother's deathbed mutterings? How about the caretaker of the old funeral home? Or Willa's old flame? How will she accept this child she feels forced to accept? Will Willa ever learn to trust God and forgive? You'll stay glued to your chair as DeMuth adds the awesome ingredients. Her recipe is, as always, satisfying and award-winning

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  • Posted July 5, 2011

    Loved it.. read nearly straight through

    The Muir House
    Mary DeMuth
    Published by Zondervan
    Source: Review copy

    Old houses, family secrets, missing memories, search for answers.
    Oh I love these kind of books. Read this one nearly straight through, unfortunately the need for sleep, well, got in the way of a straight read! Loved this book. Willa Muir has vivid recollections of much of her childhood minus a time when she was 4 years old. She just can't seem to piece together what happened that year and why she is blocking it out. Her relationship with Daddy was special and grand, her hero though now deceased. Relationship with Mom was strained and hurtful leading Willa away from TX to live in Seattle. The caretaker of the old Muir house contacts Willa as a decorating consultant to come and help her fix the house for a bed and breakfast. Willa decides it is good a time as any to finally find the missing pieces to her memories. Leaving behind a great guy Hale, and his marriage proposal, Willa heads back to the place that haunts her.
    Basic theme yes, but well crafted, great characters and the intertwining theme of Jesus never leaving us or forsaking us. That though Willa may feel orphaned, abandoned and unloved, Jesus loves her and is there for her.
    Fantastic 5 star book, I am looking to get some of Mary DeMuth's previous books for my summer reading!
    I received a copy of The Muir House from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review of the book.

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  • Posted July 4, 2011

    Perfect weekend read

    Before Willa Muir can consider a future with Hale Landon, she must first make peace with her past. Plagued by shadowed memories and unanswered questions, Willa returns to her Texas home on a quest for the truth. As the mystery of her family unfolds, she discovers that things aren't always as they seem.

    Readers can identify with Willa's search for love, acceptance and a sense of belonging. Mary DeMuth methodically develops the characters by weaving flashback memories into the storyline. Willa learns forgiveness and understanding as she reconciles her childhood memories through the eyes of an adult with struggles of her own.

    I appreciate that Mary allows her characters to be flawed and honest, and I like the struggles and personality conflicts Willa had with other characters in the story. While Hale plays a significant role in encouraging Willa's faith in God, it develops slowly and naturally as Willa pieces together her past.

    I occasionally stumbled with the flashbacks and had to look back to figure out if they were current or past events. Other than that, it was an enjoyable and engaging read - perfect for a relaxing summer weekend!

    The author/publisher provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Posted June 30, 2011

    The truth will set you free--or will it?

    The truth will set you free-or will it? Willa Muir believes wholeheartedly that it will, and will stop at nothing to piece together her missing memories of early childhood. In fact, she has boxes of memories, dreams, thoughts, and images stored in her attic to help her do just that. She thinks she has moved on with her life, renting a house in Seattle and establishing her career there. But when her boyfriend, Hale, proposes she realizes just how much she has not moved on and turns him down in a panic. She runs out on him and heads home, only to see her house going up in flames, taking her painstaking research of memories with it. She does the only thing she can do at that moment, and that is to accept an invitation to return to The Muir House to help the old caretaker, Genie, turn it into a bed and breakfast. Willa figures she can research her memories there better than anywhere. And thus begins the mystery, the agonizing search for the truth that everyone seems to know but no one is willing to share. We are taken through many twists and turns throughout Willa's life and find that not all is as even she remembered it, and reputations seemed to be esteemed higher than the welfare of a child. We begin to see bits and pieces of Willa's childhood through her memories, and the author does an expert job of letting us see this story. Willa believes that no one wanted her except her father, and that he loved her beyond belief. The writing is melancholy, with bursts of occasional happiness throughout, and some quirky humor, which really stands out against the melancholy backdrop. There is enough mystery to keep you turning pages to see what memories Willa is able to recover and what really happened in her childhood. When Willa is melancholy, you feel melancholy. When she is happy, you are happy too. The author really knows how to make you feel what the characters feel. I also like the way she handled dialogue, not saying "he said" or "she said" too often, yet always allowing you to know who was speaking. Being from the south myself, I loved the descriptions of Texas and everyday events of life in the south, like sweet tea on a humid summer day, or friends gathered for an impromptu picnic or cookout. While Hale tells her to keep the ring he gave her when he proposed because he will never stop loving her, and that her home is with him, he seems to show something totally different with his actions. She feels that he has abandoned her and no longer feels that way for her. Meanwhile, her old boyfriend Blake is still around her hometown and is more than happy to fill his place. But things start to get creepy, in my opinion, when Blake tells her, "I always knew exactly where you were, Willa. Knew every address, every roommate you had. Every phone number, email address, profile. I knew what you read on Goodreads, what you bought on Amazon. There's a deliciousness in knowing everything about a girl, yet not making a move, wouldn't you say?" But while Hale is a God fearing man who loves to teach lessons about Him in creative ways, wants to spend his life helping the broken, he is not without his own faults. This is good because no human is ever without faults and that is what makes us human. However, Hale made me want to just yell at him! He seems to abandon Willa in her time of need, he seems to want to keep a hold on her yet push her away at the same time. Things have to be on his terms so that he seems to be controlling her just as Blake is try

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  • Posted June 29, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A young woman's search for truth

    Willa Muir's cloudy recollections of her childhood make her unable to fully "let go" and love as an adult. When she runs from Hale's marriage proposal, Willa realizes she needs to sort out her fears if she ever wants a chance at happiness. Determined to unlock the secrets of her vague childhood memories, she travels cross-country to her hometown. Willa stays in the house where she grew up, hoping its familiar walls will jiggle her memory and release the truth about who she really is. Willa's story speaks to a universal challenge many women face - trying to overcome the past to change our self-images and behaviors in the present. I loved the depth and "realness" of the characters in The Muir House. They argue, laugh, make mistakes and express raw emotion in a way that allows the reader to feel their brokenness. For me, the beauty of this book is that it gently persuades us to confront our own long-standing frailties and make the choice to change. Like Willa, no matter what our past, we can face the future with hope. I received this book from the author/publisher. This is my honest, unbiased review.

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  • Posted June 28, 2011

    highly recommended for seekers of Truth

    For anyone who's ever wondered about a chunk of their childhood missing from their memory, or felt compelled to find the answers to their own or their relatives' inconsistent behavior before and after the time in question, Willa Muir's story will enthrall. Will finding the truth truly bring freedom to Willa? At what cost, to Willa and the others in her family, will that freedom require?

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  • Posted June 27, 2011

    Someday You'll Find Home

    There is a powerful symbolism in "The Muir House" between Willa's old home and Willa herself. And as the story progresses, that symbolism only becomes more clear.
    Willa is a young woman desperately searching for "her" place in the world. But there are so many secrets locked within her, that it pushes her away from everyone and everything around her. Until she comes to her moment of breaking.
    The story is told through her surroundings. There isn't a lot of dialogue (what is though is excellent), but is mainly a story told through what her memories and surroundings, as she digs to remember what she can't. Can Willa move past the struggles of her youth that are encroaching on today's promises?
    That is basically the premise of the novel. As she sees everything she holds dear being stripped away, she sees where she has gone wrong for so many years. "The Muir House" is one of those books I think you would have to read several times over just to grasp the full power. There is a great deal of subtext buried in the writing and you can't wear it out by re-reading.
    Once I got into the story and grasped the writing style, it was an enjoyable read, it makes you think, but also presents a story that I couldn't help but sigh in closing. (it is a lovely ending!)
    This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to the publishers and the author for providing a copy to influence on behalf of the author.

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  • Posted June 27, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Secrets...Love...Forgiveness!

    Mary DeMuth's book, The Muir House, is a rich telling of a young 28-year-old young lady, Willa Muir, who is haunted by her dreams and days of longing to know about the `blank memory year' of her childhood. She has a deep sense of wanting to be loved and finding where she belongs, as her life seems like such a mystery and so scattered. She's convinced if she finds that missing piece, her life will be resolved. But does she realize it could open another can of worms to haunt her even more?

    Then, when Hale Landon puts a ring on her finger, she panics and flees back to her hometown of Rockwall, TX, to The Muir House, hoping to find the answers she's been looking for to set her life on course. What she finds is her home changed into a B & B, and no one willing to share about her past, including the caretaker, Genie. Even her mother's deathbed mumblings make no sense to her.

    Willa's story is so real and relevant to many even today who find hauntings in their own lives that just don't connect. But it's her relentlessness in pursuing her past, dogging anyone she thinks can supply her information, including her old boyfriend, which makes for relationship problems with some of those she loves.

    Mary's incredible list of characters will resonate with you in some fashion. Some you will like-some you may not. Either way, you will find yourselves rooting for some and wishing others would change. You may even find some traits that you recognize in your own life and/or family and friends, both good and bad. Her picturesque word choices let your imagination soar.

    The painful revelations, and the way some are found out, will steal your breath away in shock and reach to the very core of your emotions. Yet the tenderness that Willa experiences will delight your soul. Mary doesn't spare you any of the ranges of emotion, which to me, makes for a great read! Because it's life's reality!

    The faithfulness of God is felt throughout, though sometimes it seems so hidden. It's His influence that wins in the end because hearts are open. How His influence wins out will be the mystery you will be searching for yourself in Mary's book. Enjoy!

    This book was provided by Mary DeMuth in exchange for my honest review.

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  • Posted June 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Muir House

    Willa Muir grew up believing that her father loved her beyond measure, but that her mother could barely stand the sight of her, but when a wedding proposal by her boyfriend Hale causes her to realize the only way she can move forward with her life is to figure out the secrets that have haunted her for years. When she gets a call from the caretaker of her former home, The Muir House,to come and help with redecorating because the former funeral home is being transformed into a B&B, Willa decides its time to go home and hopefully make peace with her dying mother, and also to solve some of the mysteries that haunt her.

    This is one of those stories where you think you know whats going to happen but the twists thrown in aren't what you expect. As Willa learns of the secrets that were buried in the past, I couldn't help but wish that she would have had more time with her mother. I thought the author did a great job of allowing the reader to see the character of Willa, someone who had difficulty with relationships, in essence allowing someone into her life, but as the story progresses we also see Willa change and grow. The ending for me was a bit of a surprise but it was perfect! The fact that Willa grew up in a funeral home was quite interesting, it brings to mind the funeral parlors of my childhood where the funeral director and his family actually lived upstairs.

    There are discussion questions included that would make this book perfect for book clubs. If you enjoy a story that pulls you in and gives you a bit of mystery, romance and also an inspirational message then your in for a real treat with "The Muir House."

    I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Posted June 26, 2011

    The Sun Shines Brightly on The Muir House

    I just finished reading Mary DeMuth's latest novel, The Muir House. She uses the symbol of the sun, almost always golden and dancing, as a metaphor of hope, even in the darkest moments. For me, the sun shone brightly thoughout the entire read. It was a five-star brightness sun.

    This is the first time I have ever read a book in this genre. Kinda strange since I secretly love chick flicks (even if my wife isn't watching with me). But The Muir House is not just a chick book. It is for anybody who is searching for life, for hope, for dreams. They are always closer than we think.

    I "met" Mary through Facebook and frequent her blog and newsletter. The themes there are strong in The Muir House. That's what makes this novel so good. It's personal. That was the power that came through in the words. The power of the sun came through Mary's words because they are real to her. And that's what made it real to me. Over and over I read in her blog comments about how real her words are, how the readers can identify with them through personal experience. I think you'll find yourself and some reality in The Muir House.

    Now, I will pass it on first to my wife, and from there, who knows. Hopes and dreams and prayers will find the next reader who needs a little sunshine in their lives.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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  • Posted June 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    I enjoyed this book. Willa Muir decides to head home after Genie, the housekeeper, has requested her help to redecorate the Muir House. It is being turned into a Bed and Breakfast [it was a Funeral Home].

    Hale has asked Willa to marry him, but she has refused!

    Willa has know for a long time that something is missing in her memory. Around the age of 4 there is a blank memory...she has dreams and keeps a journal, but still hasn't been able to figure it all out.

    She does know that her Mother intensely dislikes her, and now is in the late stages of Alzheimers.

    What a woven story this is, and just when you think you have it figured out ... you don't!

    Willa has to learn to lean on the Lord, trust, and Forgive!

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