Wynne-Jones, T. (2004). A Thief in the House of Memory. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN: 9780374374785
Annotation: After a man is accidentally killed in sixteen year old Dec’s childhood home, he begins to relive memories of his mother, who left six years ago. Dec ventures back into the House of Memories to find out what really happened to her.
Reaction: To be totally honest, I picked this book up because I thought the author might be related to Diana Wynne-Jones, who is such a delightful, amazing fantasy author (seriously, if you haven’t read any of her books, get thee to Howl’s Moving Castle). Turns out, as far as I can tell, he’s not. Apparently, he’s a fairly prolific Canadian author, whose credits include a picture book called Pounce de Leon. Why, yes, I will be reading that, thankyouverymuch.
Reading the second person prologue, I really wasn’t sure that I would enjoy this book, but I was willing to give it a try, and as it turns out, I enjoyed it. This book is not in my usual wheelhouse of teen science fiction/fantasy/paranormal, but part of this exercise is to stretch my boundaries a bit.
Dec is a quiet teen with dreams of architecture and a fairly dysfuntional family. He, his dad, his almost step-mom and his five year old sister live in a pretty normal house, but just up the hill is the family home, referred to as the House of Memories, because it holds all the possessions and memories of several generations of Steeples. Five years after his mom abandoned the family, he begins to see her around the House of Memories, reliving his own memories of his volatile, vivacious mother. He starts to suspect that things aren’t the way they always seemed, and he’s determined to get to the bottom of his mom’s disappearance.
Wynne-Jones creates a quiet and somewhat lonely book about finding truth about family and friendships. Dec’s outlandish accusations about what REALLY happened to his mom seem crazy but also sort plausible, and he begins to find comfort from unlikely sources when he feels like his world is falling apart. Wynne-Jones captures the way it feels to be a teen (or an adult, really) who feels lost and left behind by everyone he cares about. This book has a little hint of ghost story to it, through Dec’s vivid, visceral flashbacks to his time with his mother, but overall, it’s realistic, and I would totally recommend it for a teen feel abandoned or maybe just someone sick of the current sci-fi/fantasy craze.