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Leaving the Pink House
216 pages; University Of Iowa Press
In this memoir, Ladette Randolph and her husband, Noel, sell their rustic-chic house in Lincoln, Nebraska in order to move to a derelict farm in the country outside of town. Since they've taken a bridge loan, the couple must complete the renovation of the new house within nine months, and the story is organized around the process of redoing roofs, and finding kitchen cabinets, as the clock ticks down and contracting mishaps multiply. But it's a misleadingly lighthearted structure, because, as Randolph redoes her new home, she looks back on her many past ones, revealing powerful events with an understated elegance that only makes them more powerful. These include: her survival from a rare blood cancer in her 20s, her departure from the fundamental Christian church in which she was raised and her horrific divorce during which her 5-year-old daughter was forced by a judge to choose between parents—and could not. Leaving the Pink House is one of those books that helps you realize the enormity of the so-called average human experience. "This is the story of my life," writes Randolph about the night she decides to leave her narcissistic husband during a cancer treatment, but then is discouraged by a nurse, "moments of crystalline perception followed by a sluggish indecision and an eager willingness to talk myself out of my own best interest." It's a feeling we've all had at least once in our lives. But for this writer, in this memoir, that crystalline perception appears to have returned to reside permanently on the page.
— Leigh Newman