Mama takes thirteen-year-old Serena and her sister to the United States in search of fortune, leaving behind family, stability, and the colors of the Caribbean. They drive from Miami to Hollywood, where their money and luck run out, and a 1963 Ford Galaxie becomes their first American home. Guided by the memory of her native Curaçao and the words of her wise grandmother, Serena confronts challenges and grows up quickly. What gifts will this new country bring, and at what price?
Although not my usually genre of literature, I really enjoyed The House of Six Doors. It’s an amazing coming-of-age story, rich with detail and great characterization.
Serena is thirteen when the story opens, and has just arrived in a Miami airport with her mother and older sister Hendrika from Curaçao. The novel is narrated by Serena, and describes her journey to live in Hollywood, California and her new life in America, with all it’s ups and downs. It follows her through her teen years until she is eighteen and finally beginning to make her life her own in her new country. Throughout the story, Serena frequently flashes back to her life in Curaçao, and places an emphasis on her relationship with her Oma (grandmother). As she grows up, and reflects on her early life in Curaçao, Serena comes to understand her mother, a woman who is frequently plagued with depression, and dreams of fame and fortune, who feels her children are all disappointments and that no one understands her. But there is more to Serena’s mother and the reader starts to realize that as Serena does.
Serena herself is wonderfully complex. At the beginning she is the dutiful daughter, agreeing with her mother and helping to achieve her mother’s dreams. As she grows up, falls in love and experiences hardships and bright spots, Serena shows herself to have her own mind, hopes, dreams and beliefs. She makes her life in Hollywood her own, and manages to thrive, unlike her sister Hendrika who spirals down into drug addiction under the pressure of pleasing and taking care of their mother.
I was so amazed at the depth of detail present in this book. I could see the places being described, feel the heat of Curaçao, and the sadness present in Serena’s family. Taking place in the 1970s, the fashion, places, music and culture of the time was presented wonderfully. I felt like I had stepped back into that time, experiencing it as Serena did. Although not a religious book, the faith and spirituality present was uplifting and hopeful. When Serena was feeling strong emotion, be it sadness, fear or hope, I was right there with her. Patricia Selbert’s writing drew me into the story with this emotion, a matter-of-fact presentation and smooth flow from scene to scene, year to year.
The House of Six Doors is a wonderful story and well worth the read.
Thank you to Book Sparks PR for sending me this book to review as part of a blog tour for Patricia Selbert.