Cover Image: Like a House on Fire

Like a House on Fire

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Member Reviews

This was an interesting read. It is a book that follows Merit, a mother who is a little bit lost in life and is going back into the work place, and Jane, her captivating new boss.

In the first half of the novel, I found Merit to be annoying. She was not in the best place with her husband, but it was frustrating to read about it. She never actually communicated with her husband about anything, but then would get mad at him all the time. Reading through it, you could tell that Merit was unsatisfied with her life (and motherhood) and was looking for a change. 

Enter Jane. Their relationship was unique from the start and was very codependent right from the beginning. The second half of the book was focused on Jane and Merit's affair. I definitely understood Merit's struggle, and I thought the author did a great job showing that. I was not surprised at the ending, I just wish we could have seen how that came to be.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC for an honest review.
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Definitely not what I expected to read. I honestly don't know how I feel about the book. I think I need to read a second time to give a fair rating. I would still recommend this book to readers but to expect the unexpected.
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A funny, tragic and yet not at all tragic, sharp look at family, work and desire. Loved these characters and the narrative voice is beautiful.
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Thanks to Net Galley for the ARC proof of “Like a House on Fire”.  

The story focuses primarily on Merit, an overwhelmed mother of two young boys, in a rather boring marriage to a college boyfriend.   An architect by training, Merit has taken a two-year sabbatical from architecture to paint professionally, her real love. She fails miserably.  The household is becoming “stretched financially” without her income. 

Dusting herself off, she decides to go back to architecture. After what could be described as an “unusual” interview with Jane, the head of an architectural firm, Merit becomes “swept up” with  everything about Jane, who is portrayed as a “larger than life” persona in the world of Architecture.  The storyline started to get a “grooming” vibe to it, which I found disturbing. Jane had her sights set on Merit from day one and this book was all about “how” she would reel her in. 

Jane is married to Edward, who owns a restaurant, and is having an affair with his chef…how cliche.  At the beginning,  the two couples enjoy a dinner one night at the restaurant and that is the last time we see the couples interact together. 

Merit seems to be under Jane’s spell. At that point, the book launched into a very long, drawn out “how to love a woman” lesbian affair. They start to have long lunches filled with oysters and wine. They take a trip to Mexico together which “seals” their lesbian relationship. Merit starts to see Jane every Friday night, as their “date night”.  Hundreds of pages are dedicated to their “smoldering” trysts.  Where is Merit’s husband in all of this? He thinks “Friday night with Jane” is normal?

To add to the “drama”, Jane gets breast cancer. Merit has a miscarriage. Jane gets divorced.
 I was expecting the husband to have an affair with the nanny, but “no”, he was seemingly oblivious to the “Merit and Jane” affair. Actually, he was very busy at work, getting a promotion that doubled his salary. He never tells Merit about this until he contracts to buy a “fixer-upper” for them closer to his office and farther from Jane. Hell, no, says Merit.  This is really the only time we see Merit “engage” in this marriage.  I thought this book would be more about how the stressed, and disconnected,  mother, in a mediocre marriage, could get her life together, but she just abandoned her life. Some would find the story engaging, but I found it monotonous. 

Did I see the “twist” coming at the end? No. But, I had disengaged from the storyline long before that.
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I am not going to lie, I was in a hardcore book slump before I dived into this book. I was given this opportunity for an advanced reader copy from Netgalley and I am absolutely pleased that I did. I read this book in less than 24 hours. It completely consumed all of my moments and I could not put it down without wondering what was going to happen next.
    Anyone who has children can relate to Merit's struggle of being a person rather just being someone's mother. It is really hard to separate the two sometimes and Lauren's description of how Merit feels as only being a stay at home mom is extremely relatable. Having three kids of my own, I certainly understood how she felt in a lot of the parts of this book. 
     Not only was this book very relatable to many aspects of motherhood, more importantly as the title states, it was on fire. I was sucked in immediately and needed to know what happened next. There is nothing like a story that keeps you yearning to turn the next page and hoping for the outcome you wish would happen.
      My only complaint about this book would be that I am dying for more. The last chapter left me with my mouth open and craving any number of pages more. I wasn't ready for it to be over, I didn't see the last pages looming over me because I was reading on my phone, I didn't even know I was almost to the end. 
      If any of her books are even half this good, I can't wait to read more one day. I am so thankful this was my first read of 2022, it was definitely worth it.
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Like a House on Fire follows Merit, a woman who believed she had her ideal life as she takes a new position working for Jane at an architectural firm due to Merits husband's encouragement for her to return to work. This story was powerful, moving, and sad, with twists and surprises along the way. The book felt so real as you go along Merit's journey to find herself, making it more beautiful. The whole book delved deeply into themes of identity and the expectations we place on ourselves which even though the characters came across as extremely privileged at times or frustrating it made me still want to continue reading.  The writing in this book was phenomenal!  This book being Lauren McBrayer's debut novel makes me excited to see what she writes next!

Thank you to Lauren McBrayer, G.P. Putnam and Sons, and NetGalley for an ARC for exchange for an honest review.
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Wow! Cannot recommend this book enough! My first to read by this author but cannot wait to read more! The characters are well developed and the story is beautifully written.
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Revelatory. A pure joy to read from an amazing author and clearly written from the heart. While this is a work of fiction, this is everything that Glennon Doyle's Untamed failed to capture.
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I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a set of characters so much. I have to admit though, the writing was great, and the story kept me engaged start to finish. The main character Merit was really tough to like. I think she was supposed to embody the whole “tired, working mom, carrying all the mental load” persona - which COULD have been easy to empathize with, but instead just came off as upper class, privileged, first world problems. I think I was supposed to dislike her somewhat disengaged husband, but instead felt bad for him at times. I do think that this book would have greatly benefited from being a multi POV story.
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This was a romance with a twist since Merit did not originally know she was attracted to women. Overall, I thought the struggle of trying to find yourself, especially after being a stay at home mom was something in which most women can relate. I certainly could identify with Merit in some regards. I’ve totally felt I’m the only one making an effort for my kids. So here the author had done a great job of making Merit relatable and realistic. Thanks Merit’s husband was awful and frustrating. In fact, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t leave him in the first place. The concept of this story was a good one, but I think the relationships needed more development. People don’t usually just connect on that level initially, not even true love. Plus, often office romances are frowned upon. Thanks Netgalley and Penguin for the ARC!
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The great thing about this novel is that you realize what’s going to happen, you just have to learn how it unfolds. 

This story was hopeful, heartbreaking, difficult, steamyyy, and all of the things you expect from the narrative of an underappreciated, overlooked wife and mother of two who is finally able to get some of her independence back by jumping back into the workforce. From the moment Merit meets Jane, there is an attraction, albeit an innocent, respectful one between mentor and protege. Until they become you know….more than that. 

While it was hard to justify some of Merit’s decisions, I did find that this was a realistic look into the questions and justifications people find themselves facing when discussing sexuality and who they are and who they love. ❤️‍🔥

The ending did seem a bit abrupt to me, maybe because I wanted more information? Not sure. But I will say, this was one of the best epilogues/“x amount of time later” I’ve ever read. I “wtf-ed” my way until the end, then screamed! It 100% left me wanting so, so much more, but only because I loved these characters! 

This was an ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for a review.
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Like a House on Fire is a story about a Merit, a woman who returns to work after a failed artistic career and three years at home raising her two young sons. Merits struggles with finding herself after becoming a mother and wife are immensely relatable, as is her unequal partnership in her marriage. Merit makes an immediate connection with her new boss Jane, and their relationship quickly turns from friendship to something more. 

Merit's feelings of being split into two identities and trying to "have it all" made me quite empathetic towards her as a character, despite my occasional annoyance at her decisions. Her husband Cory technically meets the bare minimum of being an okay husband, in that he is generally kind to Merit, he loves his children, and he doesn't abuse her. Beyond those things, Cory is extremely lacking and his behavior left me feeling frustrated as was probably intended. He does not actively participate in parenting his children unless he is explicitly asked, and Merit is left carrying the bulk of the mental and physical load in their family.  I think most readers will relate to the feeling of being in an unequal partnership and wanting more, and I appreciated that Merit was never shamed into feeling like she should settle for a marriage that left her unhappy. 

While I liked and identified with most of the characters, there were several plot points that I felt were underdeveloped, and some seemed outright unnecessary. The ending of the book left me feeling unsatisfied, as I had hoped that I'd get to see more about how Merit resolved her inner turmoil regarding the "two Merits" she felt she had to play in her life. Instead, we see the turmoil come to an apex and then... skip to five years later. I think the journey to healing, even one that was shortly described could have helped make the plot more compelling. 

The story is also clearly written with a very feminist lens, but it makes the mistake of subtly shaming women who do not make the same career choices of Merit. Women who work from home or seem to enjoy staying at home are placed in al negative light, and at one point it is insinuated that they are pretending to be happy and that they'll eventually break and feel the same way as Merit does. Feminism isn't just about giving women the ability to choose whether they work or stay home with their children, it's also about celebrating whatever choice they make. Turning Merit's personal struggle with her identity as a mother into a weapon to bash on other women's choices isn't the feminist take that was probably intended.
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If you liked Evelyn Hugo, this book will be right up your alley! A LGBTQ love story between two women who are married to other men. The connection to the characters keeps you reading until the end.
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Ok… as I sit here at 3am having finished the book… I have so many feelings! 
This is not my normal genre but wanted to try something different and was not disappointed. 
Lauren’s writing makes you feel like you are in the room with these characters. 
I felt like I knew and understood everything Merit was going through. Really well written and just kept me wanting more. 
I was so invested in this story that I just couldn’t stop! I have to say I didn’t expect that from a story like this but I am not complaining. 

It was almost like a coming of age… but for Middle Ages people :) Truly amazing story!
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Who am I? The human brain is likely unique in being able to process that question. It is one of the most fundamental questions that humans are challenged to answer. Some choose to avoid, deny, or obfuscate. Others are honest, but find that their answer at one phase of life is no longer the same at a later stage.

This is particularly true for individuals who have the privilege of choosing a partner and deciding to have children. The initial choice of mate is most always  a bit of a gamble. There’s love, passion, hope, and dreams, but nothing is guaranteed. The romance of the wonderment of having children usually takes a hit during pregnancy, delivery, postpartum, or at least forever after. For many, if not most, the question of, “Who am I?” undergoes a transformation. What was once important has changed. Some people come out the other side finding that those initial aspirations, that burst of love and passion, those initial plans and dreams may get tweaked, but the mates can adjust, the relationship can evolve and remain. For others, change is more fundamental. 

This is what Lauren McBrayer addresses in her funny, sexy, sad, and moving debut novel, “Like A House on Fire”. Merit Is a creative, smart, talented, ambitious woman who thought she had found the perfect match for life. Two children, abandonment of artistic ambitions, and years later, Mer looked up and decided that this is not who she is, certainly not who she wanted to be. Her dream spouse has essentially checked out and doesn’t understand what could possibly be the problem. 

Navigating these choppy waters is often the most important decision that people ever face. There are many forks on the roads ahead. There are myriad opportunities to take wrong turns. Mer doesn’t have too many people to help her decide. It will take a strong woman to survive. Can she do it?

I’m not sure of Ms. McBrayer’s bio, but she sure seems to know what she’s talking about. There are twists, turns, surprises, and “bring me the tissues” moments. “Like a House on Fire” is a strong read which gives lots of food for thought.

Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and NetGalley for the eARC.
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Just wow! As a mid-30s mom who regularly feels like The President of Everything, I related so much to Merit as she navigated the ins and outs of daily life. The constant questioning — am I good enough, is this life good enough, am I okay with good enough? The friendship between Merit and Jane felt so authentic and deep, and I loved going on the ride with Merit. Lauren McBrayer has written a truly beautiful coming-of-age novel for those of us who took a little longer to discover and accept our true selves. Thanks to NetGalley and Putnam Books for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This book is immensely readable! Merit, the main character, is struggling with her identity in many ways when we meet her at the beginning of the book. She is an exhausted mother of two young children, she is trying to follow her passion for an art career with little success. The fact that she is home with her young sons while also trying to create art isn’t easy and it doesn’t help that her husband isn’t supportive of this career endeavor. Merit decides to take an architectural job and there meets Jane, a woman she aspires to be for many reasons. Her relationship quickly turns to adoration and Jane reciprocates by being a supportive friend and confidant. Exactly what she is missing in her marriage. 

In an effort to find personal happiness, Merit begins a parallel life: one which she desperately wants and one that she feels compelled to live out of a sense of duty and propriety.

While fast-paced, I found the relationship between Merit and Jane a bit too perfect. Likewise, Merit’s husband was too clueless and unhelpful. I couldn’t really believe that he would be so removed as to not know what his wife was doing when she wasn’t at home.

In the end, my favorite parts of this book involved the struggle to live a life based on a perception of propriety and duty vs. living for happiness. I can look past the over-generalizations of the characters because the story unfolded quickly, the writing was compelling, and the ending was clever.
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I was going into this hoping to see an inclusive portrayal of LGBTQ romance. What I got was very well-off white women unsatisfied with their lives . There is nothing wrong with one exploring their sexuality, but they paint Merit as a hollow human being who only cares about her affair. There is a point where you can blatantly tell she doesn’t care about her kids. While Cory was a boring husband, Merit was an unlikeable protagonist. She constantly centers it all around her and her feelings with no regard as to anyone else is besides Jane.
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Did not like the last part of this book and the being was confusing and abrupt and I had to re-read it a few times to understand what was going on.

Also for an LGBTQ book, in the earlier part of the book there were two of times the author called a character’s friends “girlfriend” which is problematic as it was used in a hetronormative way.
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Such a page-turner! Watching as Merit’s life simultaneously unravels and rights itself was incredible. Both Merit and Jane were written with such depth, I felt like I was hearing the secret and sacred history of a close relative. Wonderful contemporary fiction, beautiful love toured abound.
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