Wednesday, September 3, 2014

G396 Book Review of Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo

Name of Book: Three Story House

Author: Courtney Miller Santo

ISBN: 978-0-06-213054-9

Publisher: William Morrow

Type of book: Memphis Tennessee, 2011-2012, flashbacks, cousins, secrets, relationships, dreams, hope, family relationships, marriage, lost love, different opportunities, friendships

Year it was published: 2014


Renovating an historic Memphis house together, three cousins discover that their spectacular failures in love, career, and family provide the foundation for their future happiness in this warm and poignant novel from the author of The Roots of the Olive Tree that is reminiscent of The Postmistress, The Secret Life of Bees, and Kristin Hannah’s novels.

Nearing thirty and trying to avoid the inescapable fact that they have failed to live up to everyone’s expectations and their own aspirations, cousins and childhood best friends Lizzie, Elyse, and Isobel seek respite in an oddly-shaped, three-story house that sits on a bluff sixty feet above the Mississippi.

As they work to restore the almost condemned house, each woman faces uncomfortable truths about their own failings. Lizzie seeks answers to a long-held family secret about her father in her grandmother’s jumble of mementos and the home’s hidden spaces. Elyse’s obsession with an old flame leads her to a harrowing mistake that threatens to destroy her sister’s wedding, and Isobel’s quest for celebrity tempts her to betray confidences in ways that would irreparably damage her two cousins.

Told in three parts from the perspective of each of the women, this sharply observed account of the restoration of a house built out of spite, but filled with memories of love is also an account of friendship and how relying on each other’s insights and strengths provides the women a way to get what they need instead of what they want.


The main characters include the cousins, Lizzie, Elyse and Isobel. Lizzie is a cousin by marriage and is athletic and doesn't know who her father is. She hopes to discover that secret while renovating the Spite House. She also hopes to achieve her dream in being in Olympics. Elyse is the cousin that seems to obsess over a particular relationship for her whole life, until the guy she loves decides to marry her sister and she will be doing whatever she can to get him back. I related to her the most, believe it or not and to me she felt human somehow. Isobel is a former child star who hopes to regain her fame back even at the risk of exposing secrets that should have stayed buried. I have to admit that while Lizzie's and Isobel's stories felt complete, Elyse's wasn't complete for me, and I guess I wanted to see more of what she wants to do with her life as well as the relationship between her and her sister explored.


Surprises are unexpected


The story is written in third person narrative from the three women's points of views and minus the flashbacks it lasts a whole year, from end of 2011 to end of 2012. It begins with Lizzie goes to Elyse and then moves to Isobel. While the women feel genuine and I did appreciate seeing a woman in the book that shares my insecurities and so forth, I have to admit that the romances lacked tension and chemistry, and I also thought the story might be similar to Losing Touch. For some odd reason, I feel that the events that were focused on in the story seemed to be uneven, or perhaps its a bit difficult for me to believe that time was passing. I think I also sort of hoped that towards the end of the sections there can be at least a sense of conclusion so to speak, but the beginning and ending of the sections seemed kind of random.

Author Information:
(From TLC)

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courtney miller santoAbout Courtney Miller Santo

Courtney Miller Santo teaches creative writing to college students and lives in Memphis with her husband, two children, and retired racing greyhound.
Connect with Courtney through her websiteFacebook, or Twitter.


A noble attempt and idea, but I think the execution wasn't done very well. I really liked the idea of three cousins living together and restoring the house as well as exploring the facets of their failures and learning from their own mistakes. I also liked that each cousin was struggling with different aspect of failure; of Lizzie feeling like a failure because of the lack of career, of Elyse in love and Isobel with fame and money, things that sort of go into "having it all." I also liked that life in the book is unpredictable and various opportunities tend to present themselves. What I think I didn't like is that while Elyse is explored, her story and conclusion felt very incomplete, and while the story is well written at beginning and the middle, towards the end it really rushed without giving readers time to digest what happened, and a lot of stuff that happened is shocking. I sort of understand the necessity for giving Lizzie love interest, but it would have been nice if it had been only for her, and because I relate more to Elyse than to either Isobel or Lizzie, I feel kind of cheated that her story wasn't cleared up as I'd hoped and that she wasn't explored as well.

This is for TLC Book Tour

Courtney’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, August 19th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, August 21st: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, August 25th: Always With a Book
Tuesday, August 26th: A Patchwork of Books
Wednesday, August 27th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, August 28th: The Book Bag
Monday, September 1st: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, September 2nd: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, September 3rd: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, September 4th: Book-alicious Mama
Friday, September 5th: Kahakai Kitchen
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.


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