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Friday, March 18, 2011

The House of Six Doors (by Patricia Selbert)

About the Book:
Mama takes thirteen-year-old Serena and her sister to the United States in search of fortune, leaving behind family, stability, and the colors of the Caribbean. They drive from Miami to Hollywood, where their money and luck run out, and a 1963 Ford Galaxie becomes their first American home. Guided by the memory of her native Curaçao and the words of her wise grandmother, Serena confronts challenges and grows up quickly. What gifts will this new country bring, and at what price?

My Thoughts:
The House of Six Doors surprised me. I was slightly nervous to read it in the beginning, because I knew it would be a difficult story to get through. And it was. But it also turned out to be a wonderful one.

Serena and her family's story is enlightening, a little heart-breaking, and a lot hopeful. As is noted above, the book is about Serena, Mama, and (her sister) Hendrika's journey finding a home in America, after searching for better opportunities. I can say that the start of the story was slow for me; I wasn't much interested until after they had all cross-countried (is that a word? I think it should be a word) and finally got to Hollywood. That's where the real story begins, and where it gets interesting. From then on, I was pretty well knotted and caught in the ball of yarn that is this book. (It's tangled and frustrating and soft. See what I did there?)

Maybe I should find a better comparison. Ahem.

Anyways, I liked it. Ms. Selbert was wonderful at making me really feel for the hardships that Serena had to go through. She had me cheering for her and wanting to argue with her. Which is obviously annoying for me, but makes a book something great. The descriptions were vivid, although somewhat distracting at times. But the way she describes Curaçao, where she was actually raised, is beautiful. She has a real knack for settings, I think, because even Hollywood's tough core was always a really apparent thing.

I loved the characters, a lot. There's a whole cast, and each and every character has their own distinct personality. Serena's grandma, Oma, isn't physically there throughout the story, but her spirit is always palpable, which I liked. Oma, among other members of the family, are often told through memories. There's almost two different stories that go on, one in California and one back in the past, in the Caribbean. It was a lovely thing. That's where The House of Six Doors comes along.

The voice of the book itself is a bit blunt, but in a pretty way. It makes the book more real feeling. It's compelling and brutally honest and sad. But also oh-so hopeful and sweet. There's a love story, and endearing family moments, and a coming-of-age. I can honestly say it's unlike any other book I've read. I definitely recommend it. And if you pick it up and maybe find yourself unhappy, just stick it out a little. I think you'll find the story pretty amazing.

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