...[a] heady and somber debut ... The architecture of the story is solid ... Apart from this, the novel features less of a plot than a collection of characters, all of whom bear their own secrets and hurts ... Each character has a story to tell, though sometimes these are lost in Matalone’s superseding mission: to catalog all the ways in which a house can function as a metaphor ...Though Matalone sometimes struggles to balance the theoretical with good storytelling, it’s nevertheless exciting to see her wrestle so artfully with her ideas.
In her poetic first novel, Matalone probes the meaning of home and family ... These vivid characters revisit their pasts and make plans to build a place 'where happiness can bloom.' ... The layers of meaning Matalone evokes provide a rich trove for discussion.
Lee Matalone’s promising, poetic first novel traces the story of Cybil—a Japanese orphan of World War II, adopted by an American family ... Home Making is short on action, long on furniture and color schemes, and Matalone misses the opportunity to delve into Chloe’s mixed ancestry. When the house is complete, it is time for Chloe to move on. It will be interesting to see where Matalone herself moves from here.
Although the opening is misleading, with its traditional narrative, once the form is understood and the underlying story begins to take shape, reading Home Making becomes a pleasure, full of weird jumps, interesting encounters, and beautiful images ... The structure of the novel allows myriad ideas to bloom and fade. Important themes surface — loneliness, being a woman of color in a white world, love, motherhood, the guilt of adultery — but often are underdeveloped and therefore don’t always resonate. The mother, Cybil, doesn’t register strongly, and Beau isn’t fully realized beyond his connection to Chloe, despite an attempt to flesh him out in a later chapter ... There’s a surprising twist toward the end, after which the story morphs again as the last chapters rush toward a traditional conclusion, not in the sense of what happens, but in how it’s told. With this change, some of the magic is lost ... isn’t for everyone. It requires a patient reader to accept the unusual structure, to find interest in Chloe’s various passions as she tries to make sense of her life, and to suspend disbelief at some characters’ motivations ... Yet, for a first novel, it’s wide-ranging and ambitious. It will be interesting to see how author Lee Matalone develops as a writer and, more crucially, as a storyteller.
...Matalone’s heady, lyrical debut overlays an adopted woman’s journey into motherhood with her daughter’s story of making a home for herself as an adult ... In measured prose, Matalone draws out connections between past and present to illuminate the mother and daughter’s shared sense of ambiguity toward motherhood. Matalone’s cool reflections on art and architecture will appeal to fans of Chris Kraus.