‘My Mother’s House’ by Francesca Momplaisir
WHO: Francesca Momplaisir
WHAT: MY MOTHER’S HOUSE, a novel
WHEN: Published by Knopf May 12, 2020
WHERE: The author lives in New York.
WHY: “A shockingly original exploration of class, race, and systemic violence.
“The lines from the opening paragraph of Francesca Momplaisir’s debut give the reader a sense of the shocks to come in this strange, disturbing novel. The home that’s on fire is not only conscious and willful; it’s also a central character in the narrative. Those parenthetical, half-hidden references to the basement give us the first hint of the gruesome revelations to come.
“This house, tainted by the human evil it contains, is reminiscent of the opening line of Toni Morrison’s Beloved: ‘124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children.’ And, like Morrison, Momplaisir uses the tropes of fantasy to try to assert truths that ordinary language and realistic imagery cannot communicate. Morrison compelled readers to confront American slavery and its aftermath. Momplaisir addresses both the legacy of colonialism in Haiti and the immigrant experience in the United States.
“The man who drives the House to self-immolate is Lucien, a ne’er-do-well who doesn’t live up to the promise his light skin and expensive education suggest. He is obsessed with Marie-Ange, who, as a general’s daughter, is out of reach — until her father runs afoul of President Duvalier. Lucien expects a bright future for his wife and their daughters when they eventually move to New York, but the success he wants still eludes him in a community that only grudgingly makes room for an influx of Haitians resettling in Queens. Lucien satisfies himself by indulging his darkest needs.
“Momplaisir’s unflinching depiction of the horrors white supremacy has wrought is powerful. Her debut introduces her as an author to watch.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS
“Provocative…Momplaisir’s arresting take on the abuse of male power will long haunt the reader.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“Momplaisir’s observant and informed writing is sensitive to the emotions of her characters while not sparing readers hard moments.” —Emily Dziuban, BOOKLIST
. . . . .
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK:
The house screamed, “Fire!” from every orifice. Difé! Melting windowpanes rolled down the aluminum siding, dripping polyurethane tears. Orange, blue, and yellow flames hollered their frustration into the icicles along the struggling gutters. The two-story (three, if you counted the basement), one-family (two, again, if the basement was included) House had had enough. Fed up with the burden of Its owner’s absurd hoarding, inexcusable slovenliness, and abuse of power, It spontaneously combusted everywhere a power source sprouted unkempt. The matted nest that passed for a fuse box in the basement; the half-assed hose that connected the gas stove to the wall in the upstairs kitchen; the shaved pipes that pulled natural gas from its source to the boiler and radiators throughout the House; the power strip in the upstairs bedroom that powered a tenant’s hot plate, microwave, refrigerator, stereo, television, DVD player, cable box, computer, and electric shaver and toothbrush; the tangle of Christmas lights left plugged in and blinking as a deterrent to robbers over the holidays. The House blew it all up and burst into tears It had been holding back for decades.
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304 pages. $26.95 ISBN 978-0-525-65715-6
To interview the author, contact: Abigail Endler | 212-572-2015 | firstname.lastname@example.org