TOD WODICKA The Household Spirit

ISBN 13: 9780099521259

The Household Spirit

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9780099521259: The Household Spirit

In this remarkable novel, Tod Wodicka, author of All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well, has crafted a luminous story of a most curious friendship.
 
There’s something wrong next door. At least that’s what neighbors Howie Jeffries and Emily Phane both think. Since his daughter and wife moved out, Howie has been alone, an accidental recluse content with his fishing and his dreams of someday sailing away from himself on a boat. Emily couldn’t be more different: she’s irreverent, outgoing, and seemingly well adjusted. But when she returns from college to care for her dying grandfather, Howie can’t help but notice her increasingly erratic behavior—not to mention her newfound love of nocturnal gardening.
 
The thing is, although they’ve lived side by side in the only two houses on Route 29 in rural upstate New York since Emily was born, Howie and Emily have never so much as spoken to each other. Both have their reasons: Howie is debilitatingly shy, and Emily has been hiding the fact that she suffers from a nighttime affliction that makes her terrified to go to sleep and makes her question the very reality of her waking life. It is only when tragedy strikes that their worlds finally intersect in ways neither of them could have ever imagined.
 
A poignant, big-hearted, and often humorous novel about two unique individuals unceremoniously thrown together, The Household Spirit is a story about how little we know the people we see every day—and the unexpected capabilities of the human heart.

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About the Author:

TOD WODICKA was born in Glens Falls, New York. He is the author of All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well. He lives in Berlin.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Part One
 
The Creep
 
 
Ever since Howie Jeffries could remember, people had been asking him if anything was wrong. It was his face, mostly. The last face on earth. First, as a small boy, he assumed that something must be wrong and this frightened him. Later, realizing that maybe he himself was wrong, Howie would say that he guessed he was just having a bad day. Weeks, months, then years of bad days. Finally, he gave up and when called to account for his woeful demeanor, merely shrugged. “Cheer up,” people told him, “it’ll never happen.”
 
But Howie’s face was always happening. Even now, at fifty. There, he thought, staring into the bathroom mirror. Still happening.
 
He washed his hands.
 
The last face on earth was how his ex-wife had once described the gaunt, arboreal lonesomeness of his features. “I love it to bits,” she assured him. Probably he was supposed to be alone.
 
Howie dried his hands.
 
This was still his family’s house in the same way a story still belongs to its characters even if most of them are dead by the end. Howie Jeffries’s wife and his daughter were not dead, they just lived elsewhere and with other people. Sometimes, when falling asleep, he still heard the clattering, indigestive sounds the kitchen made when his wife cooked. Or, getting dressed, he’d recall how his wife rolled his socks into tight, tiny animals. Open the sock drawer and there they were, waiting. Howie once had a drawer devoted entirely to socks. He’d remember their wall calendar, how they’d present themselves before it, peer into it together, his wife writing in her red and green and black markers, commanding Howie to watch—participate—as she explained the future. Generally speaking, the future was Howie’s fault.
 
She left him for a man who knew how to talk about her feelings and who, moreover, was named Timmy, not Tim or Timothy. Timmy had introduced notions like potential. Timmy wasn’t content to sit and grow old and potentially die of freaking boredom night after night, now was he? Timmy was knowledgeable about things that happened in other languages. He was a painter of houses, landscapes. He was eight years younger than Howie and his wife.
 
The divorce was a swift, anesthetized procedure. Three lawyers, his and hers. His wife had a new signature to go along with her new dress, her bright, naked fingers. Signing here and here and, right, good, and just there too, please. OK. Howie writing his name slowly, meticulously, as if there might yet be a reprieve, an on second thought, going so far as to include his neglected middle name for those three extra marital seconds. Victor. His great-grandfather’s name, his uncle’s too, stalling there between the Howard and the Jeffries. VICTOR.
 
Howie had been thirty, his daughter, nearly five. Twenty years later and none of them had died, not of freaking boredom or otherwise. They were all OK now.
 
Howie and his daughter, were friends on the internet computer. He loved Harriet but was unsure as to whether he knew her, and he wondered if this made a difference. But good for her, he often thought, unable to attach any weight to the locution as he slid down through Harri’s Facebook life in New York City. Good for you. Sounding, he knew, not unlike his own father and the bloodless there-you-go’s the old man reserved for the people who had disappointed him most.
 
Because, really, why impose? Why say anything at all?
 
Howie brushed his teeth. Four in the morning and he’d forgotten the toothpaste again. He smiled as if someone were standing behind him, a woman in the mirror, a wife who appreciated this small, endearing hiccup in his hygienic routine. Howie, you goofball. Her arms around his waist.
 
Some years ago at the GE company picnic, Howie had been drinking beer with his co-workers and their spouses, one of whom had been holding a little boy. Ever attuned to such things, Howie had tried to minimize his face. The boy stared. Nothing wrong, Howie wanted to explain. It’s just me. This is what I look like. Then someone had said something funny and Howie, trying not to laugh, couldn’t help smiling. The kid, a toddler, had recoiled as if slapped. Everyone pretended to get a kick out of this, even Howie. Later, the boy’s mother pulled Howie aside. “Kids,” she said. “Howie, sweetie, I’m so embarrassed. I guess your smile just rattled him.” Like this was an obvious thing, something long accepted, past the point of discussion. Howie Jeffries had a rattling smile.
 
Still, small children generally liked him, dogs and elderly women, too. Folks with disabilities. His daughter once said that he had a distinguished face. Try and remember that. But just the fact that Harri had told him this out of the blue, as if in conclusion to some long-running internal debate—yeah, distinguished, actually—well, why even say it?
 
Howie flossed.
 
He was not, he knew, an unhappy man. What had he ever done with these hands that he should be ashamed of? Things needed doing, you do them. You treat folks like you expect to be treated back. Howie had never found a good or bad reason to believe in God and believed only that things were getting too noisy and that most people were insane.
 
He had only just returned from his night shift at the General Electric Waste Water Treatment Plant in Schenectady, New York. He enjoyed the forty-five-minute commute. The road at night was where Howie made the most sense to himself. In fact, had he put more stock in self-determination or the pursuit of happiness, he surely would have been a long-haul truck driver. Instead, he’d been with GE for exactly thirty years, something he knew only because his co-workers had recently started teasing him with the possibility of an anniversary party.
 
“Just when you least expect it,” Steve Dube had said. “Jeffries, you do know we’re going to party the shit out of you this time, right? Thirty years, champ. Shit is for real. This time we mean it.”
 
They didn’t, of course. The guys just really liked threatening Howie with large social events. Each year as his birthday approached, he’d be put on warning. Shit could be lurking behind any door. Threatening to celebrate Howie was their way of celebrating Howie. There were worse things, he supposed, than being misidentified as someone who might be killed by a surprise party.
 
Howie had been working two weeks of day shifts followed by two weeks of night shifts for thirty years. His ex-wife had insisted that this was part of his problem, by which she meant her problem with him. The way he willfully curled his life around a different clock than everyone else.
 
Howie recoiled at the intimacy of his own blood. He’d gotten carried away with the flossing again.
 
Howie spit.
 
Howie turned off the bathroom light but continued to stand at the sink. Darkness emboldened the sound of his breathing, his heart. Would you listen to that. Crickets and a far-off dog. Dogs? Owls.
 
Howie approached the bathroom window. He allowed his eyes time to adjust. The treetops moved as if the air had slowed and thickened into water. Pines, mostly, but some elm. There was no moon. Then there was: hard, white, and rolling from behind a bank of silver clouds. He focused on his neighbor’s house, its weak glow. Beyond this, the dark.
 
And he saw her. She was moving along the edge of the woods like you might pace beside a pool you’re not quite ready to jump into. Then, just when Howie began to think that maybe she wouldn’t tonight, she did. She was gone, into the forest, leaving only the slightest splash of night behind her. That and Howie, his face against the bathroom window.

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Tod Wodicka
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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. There s something wrong next door. At least, that s what neighbors Howie Jeffries and Emily Phane both think. Since his daughter and wife moved out, Howie has been alone, an accidental recluse content with his fishing and his dreams of someday sailing away from himself on a boat. Emily couldn t be more different: she s irreverent, outgoing and seemingly well-adjusted. But when Emily returns from college to care for her dying grandfather, Howie can t help but notice her increasingly erratic behavior - not to mention her newfound love of nocturnal gardening. The thing is, although they ve lived side by side in the only two houses on rural Route 29 in upstate New York since Emily was born, Howie and Emily have never so much as spoken. Both have their reasons: Howie is debilitatingly shy; Emily has been hiding the fact that she suffers from a nighttime affliction that makes her both terrified to go to sleep, and question the very reality of her waking life . It is only when tragedy strikes that their worlds, finally, become joined in ways neither of them could ever have imagined. A poignant, big-hearted, and often humorous novel about two very unique individuals unceremoniously thrown together, The Household Spirit is a story about how little we know the people we see every day - and of the unexpected capabilities of the human heart. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099521259

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Book Description Book Condition: New. Publisher/Verlag: Random House UK | A poignant, big-hearted, and often humorous novel about two very unique individuals unceremoniously thrown together, The Household Spirit is a story about how little we know the people we see every day - and of the unexpected capabilities of the human heart. | There's something wrong next door . At least, that's what neighbors Howie Jeffries and Emily Phane both think. Since his daughter and wife moved out, Howie has been alone, an accidental recluse content with his fishing and his dreams of someday sailing away from himself on a boat. Emily couldn't be more different: she's irreverent, outgoing and seemingly well-adjusted. But when Emily returns from college to care for her dying grandfather, Howie can't help but notice her increasingly erratic behavior - not to mention her newfound love of nocturnal gardening.The thing is, although they've lived side by side in the only two houses on rural Route 29 in upstate New York since Emily was born, Howie and Emily have never so much as spoken. Both have their reasons: Howie is debilitatingly shy; Emily has been hiding the fact that she suffers from a nighttime affliction that makes her both terrified to go to sleep, and question the very reality of her waking life . It is only when tragedy strikes that their worlds, finally, become joined in ways neither of them could ever have imagined.A poignant, big-hearted, and often humorous novel about two very unique individuals unceremoniously thrown together, The Household Spirit is a story about how little we know the people we see every day - and of the unexpected capabilities of the human heart. | Format: Paperback | Language/Sprache: english | 278 gr | 198x129x21 mm | 336 pp. Bookseller Inventory # K9780099521259

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. There s something wrong next door. At least, that s what neighbors Howie Jeffries and Emily Phane both think. Since his daughter and wife moved out, Howie has been alone, an accidental recluse content with his fishing and his dreams of someday sailing away from himself on a boat. Emily couldn t be more different: she s irreverent, outgoing and seemingly well-adjusted. But when Emily returns from college to care for her dying grandfather, Howie can t help but notice her increasingly erratic behavior - not to mention her newfound love of nocturnal gardening. The thing is, although they ve lived side by side in the only two houses on rural Route 29 in upstate New York since Emily was born, Howie and Emily have never so much as spoken. Both have their reasons: Howie is debilitatingly shy; Emily has been hiding the fact that she suffers from a nighttime affliction that makes her both terrified to go to sleep, and question the very reality of her waking life . It is only when tragedy strikes that their worlds, finally, become joined in ways neither of them could ever have imagined. A poignant, big-hearted, and often humorous novel about two very unique individuals unceremoniously thrown together, The Household Spirit is a story about how little we know the people we see every day - and of the unexpected capabilities of the human heart. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099521259

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