For My Ears: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett and read by Tom Hanks

From the New York Times best-selling author of Commonwealth and State of Wonder comes Ann Patchett’s most powerful novel to date: a richly moving story that explores the indelible bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a past that will not let them go. The Dutch House is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love, and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves, and of who we really are.

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

Oh my goodness – I LOVED this story! And having Tom Hanks in the car with me every day only made it EVEN BETTER!

Now, full disclosure, so many people were reading this novel and raving about it last year that I made a mental note to stay far away. I rarely like what everyone else likes, so I figured I’d be wasting my money. However, when I read the synopsis, it sounded intriguing, so I spent an Audible credit on it in advance of our holiday traveling.

I just loved this story and the relationship between Maeve and Danny, who love each other as only two siblings can. I loved the humorous “voice” of the narrative, which was superbly captured by Tom Hanks (award-worthy in my opinion). I loved the themes of coming of age and also of forgiveness and redemption.

This was my first Ann Patchett but it won’t be my last!

Highly recommended!

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