Praise for The Houseguest
"With the emotional depth and lyricism of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated (2002), and the flawed personalities and lavish imagery of Dara Horn’s The World to Come (2006), this witty, moving, and literary paean to a people bursts with the depth and magic of a Chagall painting."
— Jen Baker, Booklist Online, April, 2016
"Heartbreaking, profound, and brimming with rich historical detail"
— Lauren Stacks, Chicago Review of Books, April 2016
“ [a] timely, psychologically questing debut...Mature in tone and unhurried in pace, Brooks’ novel is at its best in its portraits of unhappy men confronted by cataclysmic events in the world and unexpressed longings at home."
" [an] ambitious, wildly successful novel... Manifesting masterful control of her characters and plot, Brooks delivers a titular protagonist who more than carries her weight... The best activist novels weave together personal and political so seamlessly that the reader is equally invested in, and learns as much from, the outcomes of both. "The Houseguest" is one such novel. Bravely choosing one of history's most horrifying milieus as her blackboard, Brooks brings to vivid life the lesson that for better or for worse, people change the world, and the world changes people, and the best we can hope for is that some of the time, those changes are for the betterment of us all."
— Meredith Maran, Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2016
“Kim Brooks's debut novel has many of the ingredients needed for a memorable work: an evocative sense of place and time; finely drawn characters; taut, limpid prose... Brooks [...] has ably presented the complex, ambiguous relationships between her characters... [I]n Ana Beidler, Brooks has created a striking character."--New York Times Book Review
“A kaleidoscope of dazzling prose.” —Louisville Eccentric Observer Weekly
“Kim Brooks’ debut novel The Houseguest offers a refreshing perspective on an often overlooked facet of Holocaust: that of the American Jew… A dramatic tale without the melodrama, Brooks’ debut is immersive and bold, and offers, by way of shining light on the domestic side of the war, a welcomed addition to the world of Holocaust literature.”—The Jewniverse
“Kim Brooks weaves a complex story that spans countries, states, and venues… This intricately told novel depicting the minutiae of domestic life and relationships, loss and grief, delves into the dark psychology of the characters and their layered and loaded interactions… The ending of the novel will reward readers with a twist that ties up loose ends but also presents more questions about these characters facing tough situations. Descriptive moments of levity depicting pre-World War II Jewish life in Europe and the Yiddish theater provide a window into a vibrant world and add another layer to this story that keeps the reader guessing until the end.”—Jewish Book Council
"American readers are likely to find themselves haunted by parallels to the current “refugee crisis” in Europe, when we are yet again just far enough removed from the daily struggle to survive, and when we have the luxury to debate our options rather than face excruciating consequences. In these harrowing and beautiful pages, Brooks uses an intricately drawn cast of characters, including a seductive refugee named Ana Beidler, to depict the ambiguities of taking as well as delaying action. By the time we reach the transcendent closing pages of The Houseguest, we realize that a certain consolation may be possible for the living, but it’s never quite enough to compensate for the numberless dead. “ -Elizabeth Rosner, National Book Critics Circle
Is it possible to fall in love with someone you don't really know?" I asked; he said that it was much, much easier.
Parenting is private life performed in public. Anyone who’s ever had to discipline a child in a grocery store or nurse a baby in a restaurant or entertain a toddler on an airplane knows this well.
The event led me to reflect on a few seemingly simple but surprisingly slippery questions: What kind of parents are the Meitivs really? What kind of parent am I? What do I want out of parenthood and what does it want out of me? What does it mean to be a Free-Range Parent…or an Attachment Parent or a Helicopter Parent or any other kind of parent that can be compressed into a proper noun?
I never leave my kids in a car now when I run into a store, and so I know nothing bad will ever happen to them in a non-moving vehicle. I suppose every little peace of mind helps. Still, I worry. I worry that when my husband and I decide our kids are old enough to walk alone to school, be that in two years or in five, some good samaritan will disapprove and call the police. I worry what the other parents will think if I hang back on the bench while my kids are playing at the park, reading a book instead of hovering over them. I worry that if I let my son play in the alley with the other kids and don’t follow him down because there are already eight responsible adults standing around, I’ll be thought of as the slacker mom who’s not pulling her own. And so I accompany when I probably don’t need to. I supervise and hover and interfere. And at least half of the other parents are probably doing it for exactly the same reason. This is America and parenting is now a competitive sport, just like everything else.
“Your breasts are very large,” the doctor said.
I was 23, halfway through my annual exam, and it took me a good half-minute to respond. I wasn’t offended, exactly. I liked my gynecologist. A man in his late 60s, he was attentive, pleasant, always willing to answer questions. Now, he was examining my double-D-size breasts and saying what I’d known since I was 12 but had never heard stated so matter-of-factly.
“I know,” I said at last. “They’re huge.” I hesitated a moment, then added, “I hate them.”
I remember a family wedding we attended together before we were engaged. It was a traditional, ostentatious, Jewish wedding — a giant hotel convention room bursting with overpriced floral arrangements and overfed guests, and we were sitting at our big, white tablecloth table, watching as the several hundred people around us danced and laughed and joked and hugged and wished each other mazel tov, and Pete turned to me with a completely serious expression, an expression devoid of even the faintest flicker of a smile, and said, “This is the worst place on earth. We’re in it. Right now. No, it’s not even earth. It’s hell.”
Manifestations of this unhappiness are woven through my earliest memories. I remember a weekday afternoon, school out, the red vinyl booth of a pizzeria and my mother weeping at the table.
But despite all our guilt and discomfort and high ideals, we came to the decision that we weren’t sending our children to Chicago’s public schools. We weren’t going to be the super-parents who, through tireless volunteering and organizing and advocacy, turned our neighborhood school around. We weren’t going to spend the countless hours required to enter into the city’s tortuous lottery system for select magnet schools. We were going to walk our kids down the street, and quietly, shamefully, remain a part of the problem.
Sometimes, in the midst of this grading, I cry. Not real tears, exactly — more a spontaneous, guttural sob, often loud and unpleasant enough to startle my husband or children. There’s just too damned much they need to learn in such a short period of time. It seems almost too late before we’ve begun.
The Houseguest, Counterpoint Press, Spring 2016
Hialeah, Glimmer Train, 2014, Issue 91
A Man Escaped, Glimmer Train, Summer 2013, Issue 87
A Race Against Death, Five Chapters, 2013
A Difficult Daughter, Glimmer Train, Spring 2010, Issue 74
The Houseguest, Glimmer Train, Fall 2009, Issue 72
The Shelter, Glimmer Train, Winter 2008, Issue 65
Do You Like It Here?, One Story, Volume 4.11 2005
The Psychiatrist's Daughter, Epoch, Volume 54.3 2005
We Think The World of You, The Missouri Review, Fall Volume, 2005
How Is This Night Different?, Alaska Quarterly Review, Winter 2004
Six Months of Darkness, Meridian, Fall/Winter 2004
Readings + Events
Thursday, April 14th, 7:30, Reading and Book Launch, Women and Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., Chicago
Thursday, April 21st, 7:00 Reading with Erin Keane and Kiki Petrosino, Carmichael's, 2720 Franklin St., Louisville
Wednesday, April 27th, 7:00, Reading, Prairie Lights, 15 S Dubuque St., Iowa City
Tuesday, May 3rd, 7:00, Joint Reading with Jamie Clark, Newtonville Books, 10 Langley Rd., Newton
Thursday, May 5th, time TBD, Reading with One Story authors, Greenlight Bookstore 686 Fulton St, Brooklyn
Friday, May 6th, One Story Debutante Ball, Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave. Brooklyn
Saturday, May 14th, 7:00, Reading with Cristina Henriquez, The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Saturday, May 21st, 5:00, Reading with Zoe Zolbrod, Bookends and Beginnings, 1712 Sherman Ave., Evanston