The House Guest, a novel by Deborah L. Norris, opens in 1935 in Tilden, Nebraska. Readers are introduced to a young girl named Maggie who is eagerly greeting company. Home made strawberry ice cream will be served later and she is excited. Sadly, the day ends with a tragedy. The story then jumps ahead to 1959 and Maggie is now a middle aged widow living in a large manor with her young daughter. The heart of the Victorian home is the kitchen and it is around the kitchen table where Maggie, her friends and guests gravitate to eat and converse. No subject is forbidden and everyone participates. Opinions are expressed (some more strongly than others), memories are shared and a great deal of coffee and cookies are consumed.
Maggie has made peace with her life. She has known sadness and loss. She is surrounded by those she loves and those who love her and she takes comfort in this. She is understandably shocked when the son of a close friend challenges her ownership of her beloved property. Unexpected guests appear at her door, each with their own history. There is suspicion a murder may have occurred and the appearance of a mysterious stranger adds a new dimension to her life. Does Maggie have the strength to face what comes next?
The power of this novel comes from well crafted and wonderful characters and their dialogues. The reader is carefully immersed into Maggie’s world and we feel as though we are sitting at the kitchen table with her and her friends. Ordinary life is turned into something special at every turn in this beautifully written story. I found this to be a moving and complex novel. Highly recommended.