Publisher Random House, July 2008
A newly wed housewife in the conformist 1950s falls in love with a grand abandoned house in town, and begins to unravel a family’s dark secrets.
When Dolly Magnuson moves to 1950s Pine Rapids, Wisconsin, she discovers all too soon that making marriage work is harder than it looks in the pages of the Ladies’ Home Journal. As Dolly adapts to her new life—keeping the house, supporting her husband’s career, fretting about dinner menus, and half-heartedly joining the Ladies Aid quilting circle—her loneliness and restless imagination are seized by an abandoned dove-gray house set high atop a hill overlooking the town.
Soon, Dolly learns that the stately house belongs to the once-prominent Mickelson family; and so unravels a story that runs parallel to her own, beginning in 1896, of a fabled lover’s curse hanging over the grand and mysterious house and its inhabitants. Rich in 1950s atmosphere and detail, in wartime heroism and forbidden love, in the struggles of a new marriage and in the art of quilting, in lost innocence, longing and ultimately rebellion and reconciliation, Keeping the House is a superb first novel of small town life and big matters of the heart by a wonderful new writer certain to please book groups and fans of writers such as Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg.
“Ellen Baker’s first novel, KEEPING THE HOUSE, is a quilt that grids a small Midwestern town in the middle of the last century. Under this writer’s deft hands, each square is a story, a mystery, an indiscretion, a tale of the great house and grand family who once ruled there. Even more, it captures the roles of women then, living embodiments of demure ideals, and those who couldn’t fit the pattern. Edith Wharton’s novels of domestic despair and display come to mind with each page.
— Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean
“Ellen Baker’s first novel is a wonder! KEEPING THE HOUSE is a great big juicy family saga; a romantic page-turner with genuine characters written with a perfect sense of history, time and place. Her portrayal of the American housewife is hilarious and heartbreaking. I couldn’t have liked it more!”
— Fannie Flagg, author of Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven
“A born storyteller, Ellen Baker has written an enthralling family saga filled with three generations of memorable characters and capturing the dreams and frustrations of twentieth century women. Wonderful, spot-on historical detail.”
— Faith Sullivan, author of Gardenias and The Cape Ann
“Ellen Baker has written the novel I’ve been waiting to read for a very long time. It’s the book you want to curl up with, the book you rush home the book you wish you’d written. In Keeping the House Ellen Baker serves up the complexities of family relationships, the anguish of victims of wars, the innermost thoughts of women, and the social mores of the past. Seasoned with mysteries that kept me devouring pages, this is one huge gourmet feast of a book for readers to savor. I look forward to every delicious book this author writes.”
— Bev Marshall, author of Walking Through Shadows and Right As Rain