Friday Reads: Leaving the Pink House: A Memoir, by Ladette Randolph
The voyeur in me loves to read a good memoir and to snoop through other people’s houses. Even though I may talk a lot about the recent Masterpiece Theatre public television offering, House Hunters is one of my secret guilty pleasures. Leaving the Pink House: A Memoir by Ladette Randolph offers both the great memoir and the opportunity to poke around in various houses that the author lived in throughout her life. And it offers a lot more. I’ve read other books by this author so I was prepared for her careful, sparse, lovely writing. I might not have been prepared for how much the story of her life grabbed me and touched me.
I devoured the sections of the book that detail the remodeling project that compelled Randolph and her husband to leave the pink house (their previous remodeling project). The realistic descriptions of the planning, decision-making, and execution required in the remaking of their country home seem to mirror the internal remaking that was going on in their family. And anyone that has undertaken a home remodel can identify with that. Not to get all “pop-psychology” here, but our images of house and home really might reflect our sense of self—as suggested by Freudian and Jungian dream analysis.
“Renovating a house requires intimacy with a building. By time you’ve stripped wallpaper, pulled up carpets, removed cabinets, washed, sanded, and painted walls and woodwork, you know the lines and features of a house as you might the body of a lover. Our level of approaching intimacy with the country house, though, was less like that of a lover than like that of a forensic scientist.” (P. 61)*
I love that the sections on the remodeling project are interspersed with chapters that inform us about the author by reflecting on her life in previous homes. On the surface, the story seems to progress through the various homes that Randolph inhabited throughout her life, but below the surface she explores the relationships those homes sheltered and the different person she was as she lived in each of those homes. I know the author—a little bit—and I confess that might make this memoir even more enticing. I only know her as a snapshot in time. The revelation of her past life in the chapters of this book really surprised me. It reminded me that we may not really know that much about our acquaintances and colleagues. It reminded me that delving into another person’s life can uncover depths of beauty, but sadness too. Learning about another person’s journey can help us examine our own. Could that be the real appeal of House Hunters?
*Leaving the Pink House: A Memoir, by Ladette Randolph, University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2014)