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Extended Audio Sample Keeping the House, by Ellen Baker Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,138 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Ellen Baker Narrator: Christine Williams Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Set in the conformist 1950s and reaching back to span two world wars, Ellen Baker’s superb novel is the story of a newlywed who falls in love with a grand abandoned house and begins to unravel dark secrets woven through the generations of a family. Like Whitney Otto’s How to Make an American Quilt in its intimate portrayal of women’s lives, and reminiscent of novels by Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler, Keeping the House is a rich tapestry of a novel that introduces a wonderful new fiction writer.

When Dolly Magnuson moves to Pine Rapids, Wisconsin, in 1950, she discovers all too soon that making marriage work is harder than it looks in the pages of the Ladies’ Home Journal. Dolly tries to adapt to her new life by keeping the house, supporting her husband’s career, and fretting about dinner menus. She even gives up her dream of flying an airplane, trying instead to fit in at the stuffy Ladies Aid quilting circle. Soon, though, her loneliness and restless imagination are seized by the vacant house on the hill. As Dolly’s life and marriage become increasingly difficult, she begins to lose herself in piecing together the story of three generations of Mickelson men and women: Wilma Mickelson, who came to Pine Rapids as a new bride in 1896 and fell in love with a man who was not her husband; her oldest son, Jack, who fought as a Marine in the trenches of World War I; and Jack’s son, JJ, a troubled veteran of World War II, who returns home to discover Dolly in his grandparents’ house.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Ellen Baker’s first novel, Keeping the House, is a quilt that grids a small Midwestern town in the middle of the last century. Under this writer’s deft hands, each square is a story, a mystery, an indiscretion, a tale of the great house and grand family who once ruled there. Even more, it captures the roles of women then: both the living embodiments of demure ideals and those who couldn’t fit the pattern. Edith Wharton’s novels of domestic despair come to mind with each page.”

    Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Ellen Baker’s first novel is a wonder! Keeping the House is a great big juicy family saga; a romantic page-turner with genuine characters written with a perfect sense of history, time, and place. Baker’s portrayal of the American housewife is hilarious and heartbreaking. I couldn’t have liked it more!”

    Fannie Flagg, New York Times bestselling author

  • “The novel carries us along  under the power of vivid prose and complex family history…Keeping the House is an achievement of plot and character, introducing Ellen Baker as an author who knows how to keep us turning the pages.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • Keeping the House savors of works by Willa Cather and Marilynne Robinson…It flows smoothly, and the prose is so assured, it’s difficult to believe this is the author’s first novel.”

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “Stuffed to bursting with stories of love, loss, revenge, obsession, emotional and physical violence, and general familial mayhem…[with] engaging characters.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Brimming with luscious details that authenticate the story’s various time periods, from early to mid–twentieth century, Baker’s accomplished, ambitious debut novel is a majestic, vibrant multigenerational saga in the finest tradition of the genre.”


Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Kim hibbert | 2/12/2014

    " It was a little hard to get into this book because each chapter is a different character in a different time, but once you get it down, I loved the story. Beware of the F-bomb though. Maybe about 10 times in 500+ pages. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Karynn | 2/9/2014

    " Good leisure book...family saga that keeps your interest with an underlying mystery. Jumps back in forth between 1950 and WWI and WWII...does a good job of including historical elements. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Anita | 1/29/2014

    " Entertaining, but essentially a WWII-era soap opera. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Eieios | 1/16/2014

    " This was a great read. It is a bit daunting because of its length, but it was a page-turner. It is a great story of families and their dysfunction, the trials of love and war. It had a little bit of everything. I really enjoyed the characters even though they weren't always sympathetic. The main plot surrounds a young married woman in 1950, while the subplot is about a family and their lives from 1896-1945. The story sucks you in and leaves you waiting to find out what happens next. "

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About the Author
Author Ellen Baker

Ellen Baker was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and grew up in Wisconsin and Illinois. She earned a masters degree in American studies from the University of Minnesota, worked as curator of a World War II museum, and is currently a bookseller and event coordinator at an independent bookstore. She lives with her husband in Wisconsin.