Monday, March 4, 2013

Keeping the House by Ellen Baker

Of Marriage and Mansions (Swap It or Pay It Forward Week)

Keeping the House by Ellen Baker is about a newlywed who moves into a new town where her husband opens a car dealership with an Army buddy in 1950. Dolly beings her married life there and starts to make friends while trying to please her husband, which is not always so easy. Byron is a veteran of WWII who continues to build a wall around him that Dolly has a difficult time penetrating. With the help of popular magazines such as the Ladies’ Home Journal, she strives to make her marriage work with tips like:   “Take an interest in his appearance.  Keeping his clothes in order is your job; encouraging him to look his best and admiring him when he does should be your pleasure.”[i] As amusing as this suggestion may be, it was sound and serious advice for the times, but it is still not quite doing the job in making their marriage work. As Dolly becomes more disillusioned with her husband, she also becomes more intrigued with the big abandoned mansion in town.  She dreams of living in it and fixing it uptrue HGTV woman before her time. It becomes an obsession with her.  Through the Ladies’ Aid quilting group she attempts to learn more about generations of Mickelsons who lived in the grand home since the late 1800s. The book meanders back and forth through the Mickelsons’ family history as well as Dolly’s current life.  I
found the book to be an interesting trip back in time and a fun read. I enjoyed Dolly's enthusiasm both in her marriage and her mansion mania. My book club liked it, too. 

“You’d be surprised at the number of table mats, napkins, curtains, and sports things that have to be ironed, even with only two in the household….” 
--Good Housekeeping, January 1950.

I received Keeping the House from  This is an online book club where you swap used books with other members.  I’ve been a member since 2008 and have received (and sent) about 120 books. It’s so easy to do.  When you sign up, you must post ten books you are willing to trade.  Once you have those first ten books posted, you automatically get two book credits and can start “shopping” right away.  You search for the books you want and click a button to request them.  Once accepted, the sender mails the book to you.  Likewise, when someone requests one of your books, you must mail them to the requestor in an allotted amount of time, usually two days. Using media mail rates saves you money. The rate depends on the weight of the book, but my books usually cost about $3.50 to send. That’s a small price for a book! 

If you cannot find the book you want, you can place it on a “wish list” and you will receive an email once it becomes available.  Not all books are paperback either.  I requested the hardback version of Keeping the House

Although the books are all used, they must be in good condition to swap. I haven’t received a bad book yet.  You can also create conditions under which you are willing to accept the books.  For example, many people are allergic to smoke and request books from non-smoking homes only. is a whole little community. There is a nominal yearly fee for joining the club, but it's well worth it. You can make friends, read or write reviews on books. You can join discussion forums, or view popular book lists, and even trade recipes.  You can get involved as much or as little as you want.  They also have a sister site where you can swap DVDs.  Check it out at

Happy reading!


What did you think of this book?  Email:

[i] Ellen Baker, Keeping the House (New York: Random House, 2007: Large Print Edition), 116.

1 comment:

  1. I hope Dolly gets her Mansion. Only one way to find out, i have to read the book.