His Grandfather’s House is the sixth novel by Ron Fritsch.
The neighbors tell Kurt his grandfather, who has been his guardian since he was four years old, committed a series of crimes to acquire his farm. In this coming-of-age novel, Kurt needs to know if the neighbors’ stories are true. The crimes they say his grandfather got away with include fraud, forgery, arson and murder.
US Review of Books, review by Carol Anderson:
“Without becoming pillars of salt, they felt the comfort of the other man’s arms.”
In a novel that touts itself as a “coming-of-age” story, this book does indeed meet that description. Set in the early 1900s through 1961, it is a family story revolving around Kurt and his grandfather, Henry. It explores the history of Henry’s family including the death of his brother, Conrad. The book also explores the loss of Kurt’s parents and his growth into an 18-year-old man who is much like his grandfather. As they continue to buy neighbors’ farm properties, they are accused of stealing and various other sins. The local minister continues to preach about this sinful family—to which Henry and Kurt pay no heed. Kurt talks with neighbors to try to learn more about Henry and what type of man he is. While exploring other life events such as WWI and WWII, the Depression, and Kurt’s school years, the story always circles back to farm and family, both those living and deceased. The ending is both traumatic and sweet.
The book begins with two pages of characters to refer to—which is especially needed for the beginning chapters which cover a lot of history. After these first few chapters, it becomes easier to read and is a story that needs to be examined. It covers numerous issues: drowning, suicide, abandonment, homosexuality, deaths in the wars, murder, arson, forgery, politics, sinful behavior—and always gossip about these things. But the relationship between grandfather and grandson is a beautiful one. The various characters are well-developed, giving the reader a taste of farm life, family, and friends, both the good and the bad. For those who have grown up on a farm or who are farmers, it is an accurate depiction of the stressors and blessings of farm life; for others, it is an interesting family story.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review