Share 10 Literary Houses That Host Family Stories and Buried Secrets

10 Literary Houses That Host Family Stories and Buried Secrets

Raised in London, Elizabeth Breeden graduated with a degree in English from Smith College in 2013. When not reading six different novels at once she can be found Instagramming artisanal pastries and working in the marketing department of Simon & Schuster. Follow her on Twitter @eliz_breeden.  

As I sit in my windowless room in my Brooklyn apartment and realize just how many episodes of “Tiny House Nation” I’ve streamed in a row, I wonder whether it would be better to turn my obsession with houses to the page. Surely fiction allows us to explore houses with secrets in the attics, walls steeped in history, homes to unclaimed orphans—and even a ghost or two? For those moments when HGTV’s French-windowed balconies and sweeping ranchland views become a little too much to bear, satisfy your “house-hunger”—with all its attendant views and buried secrets—with these novels.


The House Girl
by Tara Conklin
Tara Conklin’s debut novel alternates storylines between Josephine, an enslaved 17-year-old in 1852 Virginia, and Lina, a modern-day NYC lawyer working on a slavery reparations case. A beautifully written dive into history, morality, and secrets, this tale really takes off once Josephine takes her fate into her own hands by leaving home in search of freedom.
The House Girl
Tara Conklin

A tenacious junior lawyer assigned to a reparations case discovers that a young slave girl may actually be the true artist of the famous works of her owner. Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this unforgettable novel is a suspenseful and heartbreaking journey that showcases the courage and determination of two women from very different times.

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House of Sand and Fog
by Andre Dubus III
Accolades including National Book Award finalist, Oprah Book Club pick, #1 New York Times bestseller, and inspiration for an Oscar-nominated film—are all reason enough to grab this gripping portrait of American realism. In it, a picturesque bungalow becomes the fighting ground for a colonel trying to restore his family’s dignity, a woman desperate to hold on to her home, and the man willing to do anything to win her love.
House of Sand and Fog
Andre Dubus III

In this masterpiece of American realism and Shakespearean consequence, Andre Dubus III's unforgettable characters—people with ordinary flaws, looking for a small piece of ground to stand on—careen toward inevitable conflict, their tragedy painting a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.

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Hausfrau
by Jill Alexander Essbaum
The house in the meticulously penned HAUSFRAU isn’t so much the building itself—it’s the emotional prison that the titular wife builds for herself after starting a family with her Swiss husband in the less-than-warm embrace of Zurich. She tries to escape through German classes, love affairs, and therapy, but her situation begins to spiral out of control. A totally engrossing read for anyone who wants a modern MADAME BOVARY.
Hausfrau
Jill Alexander Essbaum

Intimate and intense, this debut novel is an unforgettable story of marriage, fidelity, sex, and morality. Navigating the lines between lust and love, guilt and shame, excuses and reasons, Anna Benz is an electrifying and divisive heroine whose story reveals how we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves, and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves.

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The Kitchen House
by Kathleen Grissom
An orphaned, white indentured servant straddles dangerously different worlds in her plantation home between the enslaved black family who raised her in the kitchen and a place in the big house given by virtue of her skin color. With torn loyalties, rich history and a stirring plot, it’s easy to see why this is a regular book club pick.
The Kitchen House
Kathleen Grissom

When a white indentured servant violates the delicate order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate. Sweeping from 1790–1810, this is a heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful, story of class, race, and familial bonds.

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The Little House on the Prairie
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Many people haven’t actually read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories of growing up in the 19th-century Midwest—they’ve probably had the series read to them. LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE is actually the third of eight novels fictionalizing Wilder’s childhood growing up in a pioneer family, and it features the first house the family builds after leaving Wisconsin looking for bigger and better opportunities.
The Little House on the Prairie
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Set during the pioneer days of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Laura Ingalls Wilder's books chronicle her life growing up on the Western frontier. For the first time in the history of the Little House books, these new editions feature Garth Williams' interior art in vibrant, full color. Come along for the adventure with this collector's set of the first five Little House books. Suggested by @SSinclair

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Bleak House
by Charles Dickens
In Charles Dickens’s most complex and well-plotted novel, one of its unforgettable characters is the house itself, where an illegitimate daughter is raised in the shadow of a seemingly never-ending court case that criticized the English Chancery court system. First published as serialized chapters, reading them together was basically the 19th-century equivalent of binge-watching.
Bleak House
Charles Dickens

Phryne’s favorite classic, Bleak House opens in the twilight of foggy London, where an obscure legal case, a mysterious woman, inquisitive detective and a chimney sweep explore London society, rich and poor, in all its dark revelry.

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The Turner House
by Angela Flournoy

In this masterful debut novel, 13 siblings must decide the fate of their mother’s Detroit home, which housed the family for 50 years before mirroring the disarray and crisis of the city around them by falling into debt and misfortune. Secrets, addiction, and even a malevolent spirit all work against the siblings, but in the end Angela Flournoy shows how it takes more than walls to keep a family together.

The Turner House
Angela Flournoy

In this masterful debut novel, 13 siblings must decide the fate of their mother’s Detroit home, which housed the family for 50 years before mirroring the disarray and crisis of the city around them by falling into debt and misfortune. Secrets, addiction, and even a malevolent spirit all work against the siblings, but in the end Angela Flournoy shows how it takes more than walls to keep a family together.

Close

The House at Riverton
by Kate Morton
In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the Riverton House, a young poet shoots himself. Only three witnesses—the Hartford family’s servant, Grace, and the Hartford sisters, Hannah and Emmeline—know the truth. Kate Morton’s gorgeous debut is full of secrets, some revealed, others hidden forever.
The House at Riverton
Kate Morton

Set in interwar Britain, this gorgeous debut novel is the story of a decades-old suicide at an aristocratic manor home, relived through the eyes of the ninety-eight-year-old former housemaid. In a classic case of the servant knowing all, her memories of that long-ago night are the key to shocking secrets and heartbreaking truths.

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The Orchid House
by Lucinda Riley
Spanning from the 1930s to the present day, from the Wharton Park estate in England to Thailand, this atmospheric and poignant novel tells the tale of a concert pianist and the aristocratic Crawford family, whose shocking secrets are revealed with devastating consequences.
The Orchid House
Lucinda Riley

Set in a magnificent estate in interwar Britain, this sweeping novel tells the tale of the prominent Crawford family, whose shocking secrets lead to devastating consequences for generations to come.

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The Two-Family House
by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Helen and Rose are more than best friends: sisters-in-law in a two-family house with their husbands and growing brood of children (Helen’s four boys and Rose’s three daughters), their lives intertwine on a daily and intimate basis as they share everything from holidays to their innermost hopes and dreams. When both become pregnant and even go into labor on the same snowy night, there seems to be more cause for celebration between them. But something happened when the blizzard babies were born, and the longer the two families live together in the brownstone, the more it haunts everyone.

The Two-Family House
Lynda Cohen Loigman

Helen and Rose are more than best friends: sisters-in-law in a two-family house with their husbands and growing brood of children (Helen’s four boys and Rose’s three daughters), their lives intertwine on a daily and intimate basis as they share everything from holidays to their innermost hopes and dreams. When both become pregnant and even go into labor on the same snowy night, there seems to be more cause for celebration between them. But something happened when the blizzard babies were born, and the longer the two families live together in the brownstone, the more it haunts everyone.

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Close

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