I Am House

By Madonna R. Fowler


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Her mother had taught her how to listen to houses.

Set against the backdrop of the Great Recession, I Am House brings us into a battle of hope vs. impossible odds, of the past on a mission to destroy the present and the future. It’s an epic tale that begins with Kathy O’Brien buying a million-dollar estate—with an $800 down payment.

Her mother had taught her how to listen to houses and how to make sick houses well, so the day Kathy stood outside the falling-down mansion on Riverview Drive, she knew something that no one else did: that nothing was going to come between her and that house. Bundling her dreams, she moves into the house with holes in the walls and no furnace. Shivering in the cold, she comes close to death from black mold, and is attacked on another front—by the old myths that kept her ancestors small and scared, that robbed them of their visions. The voices threaten, “Stay small. Don’t take risks,” but it’s a little late for that. Kathy bought the house. Now what? Stalking empty rooms at night, desperately trying to outrun shame and regret, she sees an apparition—her alcoholic mother, sipping another beer at the kitchen counter—her mother, searching in vain for relief in a bottle.

Enter silver-haired Anthony Manicetti, former womanizer, Kathy’s across-the-street neighbor. Eighty-year-old Tony arrives with fatherly advice, encouraging her not to give up the ship. A second neighbor, Daniele Dennison, who has stage-4 cancer, tells her just the opposite, sharing the horrible secret that soil samples taken behind their homes in a field disclose dangerous levels of chromium 6 and mercury. “It’s going to make the Love Canal look like a picnic in the park,” Daniele says, urging Kathy to join their class action lawsuit and sell now before it’s too late. While she’s still reeling from the toxic-waste news, and with no money for improvements, the stock market crashes, sinking a sword in Kathy’s heart. Panic ensues. Threatened with foreclosure, she is horrified as others flee their homes in the middle of the night, leaving her to wonder if she’s next. Cornered, with literally nowhere else to go, in a last-ditch effort, Kathy closes her eyes in prayer and decides to go to God’s house and ask Him for help.

Houses, it turns out, repay favors. Her house knows that Kathy risked everything she had to save it. Yes, the house knows that it is the long shot, and through it all, it’s the house that holds vigil, piercing the veil of our reality, sweeping us into an unexpected miracle one night—when the angel’s trumpet takes Kathy hostage with its perfume and into the promise of a life, resurrected.