The Poet’s House
An unforgettable, lighthearted story about a young woman who discovers the insular world of writers, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Year We Left Home.
Carla is stuck. In her twenties and working for a landscaper, she’s been told by everyone that she’s on the wrong path, from her mom who wants her to work at the hospital to her boyfriend who is dropping not-so-subtle hints that she should be doing something that matters.
Then she is hired for a job at the home of Viridian, a lauded and lovely aging poet who introduces Carla to an eccentric circle of writers. At first, she is perplexed by their predilection for reciting lines in conversation, the stories of their many liaisons, their endless wine-soaked nights. Soon though, she becomes enamored with this entire world: with Viridian, whose reputation has been defined by her infamous affair with a famous male poet, Mathias; and her friends; and especially with the power of words, the “ache and hunger that can both be awakened and soothed by a poem,” a hunger that Carla feels sharply. When a fight emerges over a vital cache of poems that Mathias wrote about Viridian, Carla gets drawn in. But how much will she sacrifice for a group that may or may not see her as one of their own?
A delightfully funny look at the art world—sometimes petty, sometimes transactional, sometimes transformative—The Poet’s House is also a refreshingly candid and delightful story of finding one’s way, with words as our lantern in the dark.
“Surprising plot twists… a cast of diverse, quirky characters with dialogue ranging from laugh-out-loud funny to lines of poetry.
— Shelf Awareness
“[A} joyful, hopeful spirit … inhabits The Poet’s House. “
— The Washington Post
“Beautifully rendered with wry wit, unusual charm, and poignant insights.”
— The Christian Science Monitor
“[A] charming novel…Part of the fun of The Poet’s House is in its small details and memorable descriptions. But the biggest pleasures are Carla’s evolution, the many well-drawn characters and subtle pokes at the competitiveness of the literary world.”
— Michael Magras, BookPage
“The latest literary charmer from fictionista Jean Thompson [is} amusing and true-to-life . Thompson gets it all right — the real poets, the wannabes, the hangers-on; the self-important literary magazine editor, the crude commercial novelist, the hard-nosed money guy. “
— Marion Winik, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Jean Thompson’s wry, canny ninth novel [is] a tribute to the soul-saving value of art, a cri de coeur for women striving to make authentic lives, and a pipeline of guidance from the elders to the emerging. Thompson’s skills make us comfortable at once — and she is often very funny.”
— Joan Frank, San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] closely observed, droll, coming-of-age story…absorbing and emotionally resonant. The Poet’s House is a keeper.”
— Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air (NPR)
Listen to the review
“Ever insightful, imaginative, compassionate, and funny, Thompson is a virtuoso of thorny interactions between wholly realized characters rife with contradictions. And she is so in her element, bringing this richly dimensional book-anchored mise-en-scène to life with lacerating wit and rueful tenderness while adeptly interleaving a poet’s long, covert battle against sexism and regret with the verdant tale of a young woman taking root in an unexpectedly sustaining realm.
— Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)
“The brilliantly rendered mise-en-scène of quarrelsome, ego-ridden yet touchingly fragile poets and the literary entrepreneurs who circle around them makes a vivid backdrop for this classic coming-of-age tale. More thoughtful, elegantly written fiction in the classic realist tradition by the gifted Thompson.”
— Kirkus Review (Starred)
“Thompson’s talents for immersive storytelling and sharp characters are on brilliant display, particularly in her portrayal of Carla’s longing for something greater, and of Viridian’s conflicted feelings about Mathias’s work. The author’s fans will savor this.”
— Publisher’s Weekly