Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard: Tearing down the house

Cover image for Housebreaking by Colleen HubbardI was attracted by the blurb for Colleen Hubbard’s Housebreaking which suggested a satisfyingly dysfunctional family set up. It also seemed appropriate given that I had a houseful of builders when I read it, thankfully doing the opposite of Hubbard’s main protagonist who hits on a novel way to prevent the family she detests from taking possession of the house she’s inherited from her mother, long regarded as a renegade for marrying her father.

Keeping her expectations low was the key to a minimal level of life satisfaction

Twenty-four-year-old Del lives with Tym, one of her father’s friends, who took her in when Stan died a few years back. Del has lost the last in a series of dead-end jobs, breaking the one condition of her sharing Tym’s apartment. The deal she’s offered for the family farmhouse seems the obvious solution but when she visits it, planning to pack up what’s left of her parents’ belongings, she finds herself reluctant to let it go so easily. She hits on a plan born of a determination to wreak as much damage on her uncle’s construction company as possible: she wants six months to disassemble and move the house. Del returns to the small town she turned her back on after her mother died, moving in with her father and settling into a social life with his friends rather than making her own. She sets about her task, camping out in the house with no electricity or phone. Meanwhile, the town is all agog, many cheering her on, not fans of the Murrows who have filled the town with strangers. Six months later, better off than when she arrived, she leaves with a new friend to say goodbye to an old one.

Del wondered if it was better to have interesting parents or boring ones. Boring ones at least might have lasted longer

Del’s an engaging character who proves very much more resourceful than you might expect when the novel opens. As she battles on with what is essentially a pointless, seemingly insurmountable task, you find yourself rooting for her, hoping she’ll meet her deadline. The supporting cast of characters is well done – I particularly like the five-times divorced Eleanor and the jaded waitress who keeps tabs on Del’s progress, two of the surprising alliances she makes. By the end of the novel, she’s no longer a rootless young woman clinging to the remnants of her father’s life, unable to kickstart her own. An easy, enjoyable read with an eye-catching premise, just right for me at a time when concentration was at a premium. It would make an excellent Netflix movie.

Little, Brown: London 9781472157522 368 pages Hardback (Read via NetGalley)

2 thoughts on “Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard: Tearing down the house”

  1. While reading your review, I could just picture some of these terrific quirky characters. And before reading your last line, my thoughts were that this would make for a great Wim Wenders or Ken Loach film.
    Best of luck with your own renovations.

Leave a comment ...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.