Friday, July 01, 2011

The Muir House

The Muir House

By Mary DeMuth

Zondervan, July 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0310330332

Blurb for The Muir House:

'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 and 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.


"Willa Muir is one of the strongest twenty-something characters in modern fiction. Her quest to reconnect with her past before embracing her future will resonate with anyone who has ever left loose ends untied. The Muir House is a fascinating coming-of-age tale with twists and turns that constant leave the reader wanting more. It is Mary DeMuth's finest work yet and it shouldn't be missed. Whether young, or young at heart, you will find yourself enraptured by Willa's determination to finally find home. In fact, this book just might lead you home too." Shannon Primicerio, author of The Divine Dance

"Mary DeMuth has once again captured my soul with a story that resonated long after I closed the back cover. DeMuth is a master at immersing readers in another world—one of hopes and fears and triumphs. She's done it again with The Muir House. Her finest novel yet." James L. Rubart, bestselling author of Rooms


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.

Do not reproduce without permission.

Mary DeMuth

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