Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review: The Housekeeper's Son by Christopher Loke

The Housekeeper’s Son
By Christopher Loke

When Eleanor Ethel Rose appears at the doorstep of the Cunningham family in pursuit of a housekeeper's job,she meets widow Elizabeth Cunningham and her two preadolescent children, Katherine and Edmund. In Edmund, Eleanor believes she sees the innocent, shining spirit of her own deceased son, David, and she determines that her mission is to protect Edmund in ways she couldn’t protect David. In Catherine, however, Eleanor soon perceives a threat: a child whose innocence and conscience are forever damaged by a terrible secret, and whose actions become increasingly destructive and dangerous.
“To a certain extent,” Loke writes, in her new capacity as housekeeper, Eleanor “was a mother again—her potential to be a caregiver was innate, her desire to be one immense, and she was determined to not fail at it again. Being a mother was her only way to personal redemption, so she could be free of the one deed others called horrendous.”
Eleanor soon becomes an irreplaceable member of the family and learns that under the peaceful exterior of Amalga, Utah, dark secrets fester, stories that Eleanor gradually uncovers. Just as the old house is decaying from within, so is the Cunningham family, with its own painful history. Elizabeth conceives a plan to save her troubled family, with Eleanor’s tacit agreement. However, as plans are apt to backfire, this one does, with serious and permanent repercussions for everyone involved.
There are some eccentric characters in this portrait of Amalga, Utah, with their own unique histories, and Loke makes them memorable actors in his story. For example: elderly Brother Young, whose wife Abigail was found dead in the barn, evidently trampled by their high-strung prize milker; and Janice Farmer, who is more than ready to spread any hint of gossip she sniffs in the air, and does so to Eleanor’s advantage.
The action shifts from past to present with ease, and the story begins and ends with the words and reflections of Victor Lee, a reporter assigned to write an in-depth interview with Eleanor. As Eleanor’s story unfolds, however, Victor loses his objectivity as he realizes: “the more I bury myself in her case, the more difficult it is for me to continue. I fear what I am to discover. I want her to lie to me about her crime. Anything is better than having to write about the ugliness of a person whom you have grown to love. Even explaining my emotion as I sit opposite her and ask wearisome questions is extremely onerous. Somehow, she manages to steal one part of me every time I glance at her. Before long, I’m afraid I will have given her everything that I am, drained to the very bones. The unexplainable part about all this is that I do it voluntarily.”
Loke’s characterization is vivid, his culinary descriptions are tantalizing, and his style and imagery are elegant (“the trees took on a wicked, skeletal form; their branches bent and deformed—skinny fingers that stretched and whipped in the wind”), but at times the complex vocabulary interrupts the smooth flow for the reader when a simpler word would suffice.
The Housekeeper’s Son is a compelling and deeply introspective novel. Through both Eleanor and Victor it touches on many complexities of the mother-son relationship. Ultimately, Victor must face his conflicted feelings toward his own mother; his hours interviewing Eleanor lead him to a surprising resolution. In the unfolding of this redemptive tale, it would appear that Eleanor has saved more than one mother’s son. 

The Housekeeper' Son

by Christopher Loke
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press, LLC 

Provo, Utah 
Format: Hardcover 
Pages: 258 
13-Digit ISBN: 978-0-9848801-0-2 
Retail Price: $28.99 
Publication Date: May 19, 2012 

About the Author (from the book):

        Christopher Loke received his MA in communications and
journalism from Utah State University. Raised in a
traditional Chinese family, Christopher spent most of
his childhood evenings listening to his relatives tell stories
to each other. In time, he has acquired an ardor for
well-told stories, particularly those that tend to touch
the human heart, which sparked the 
beginning of his writing career.
        Christopher currently resides in a quiet neighborhood
near a lake in Provo, Utah, with his beloved wife and a
monster that is his son.

Visit Chris at: 

View the book trailer:

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