Sunday, December 7, 2014

Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo

Three Story House is the story of three cousins who are closer than sisters. Each is stumbling through her own life on her way to an uncertain destination. First, there is Lizzie, professional soccer player and would-be Olympian, but another knee injury has threatened to sideline her for good. Then there is Elyse, whose bold aspirations accumulate a mountain of failures. Lastly, there is Isobel, a has-been sitcom actress whose true self, if she could find it, might be wrapped up in restoring houses. When Lizzie discovers that her grandmother's oddly shaped Memphis mansion has been condemned and is in danger of being sold at auction, the three cousins drop everything and head to Memphis to see if the house can be rescued and whether it holds the answers to all of Lizzie's questions about her missing father.

All in all, I was disappointed with Three Story House. I loved the idea of the three women finding healing for themselves while restoring a house to its former glory, but the execution was a little bumpy. Don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with Santo's writing. It flows well, does a good job of describing the house the three cousins are trying to save, and Santo puts a good effort into drawing out her three protagonists. The problem is, I didn't particularly like them or dislike them or feel much of anything for them at all. They wavered between seeming less than genuine and making me feel weirdly uncomfortable, neither of which is great when it comes to relating to characters. Lizzie was almost too vulnerable, crumbling at the least provocation. Too much of the cousins' bond seems to revolve around protecting overly fragile Lizzie from the difficult stuff life has to dish out. The heart of Elyse's storyline was so desperate and selfish that I was mostly embarrassed for her. Isobel alternates between being the strong and supportive ring leader to being staggeringly self-centered, and I felt that Santo struggled to get at the heart of her character.

I'm okay with an ending that leaves some matters unresolved, but Three Story House seemed like it wanted to tie everything up, but finished with a lot of ends that were still pretty loose. Instead of giving Elyse and Isobel proper endings for their story lines, Santo allows the end of the story to meander back to tying up Lizzie's loose ends leaving the other cousins' stories to peter out unsatisfactorily. Three Story House touches on some big themes but doesn't dig quite deep enough to fully unearth them, leaving the book marooned in the uncertain territory between fluffy women's fiction and something a little more profound.

(I received this book from the publisher for review consideration.)


  1. I didn't love Santo's first book because of the ending. I wonder if that's her style.

  2. I have been putting this one off and I guess for good reason...😼