Kirkus review Leaving the Pink House

On Sept. 12, 2001, Ploughshares editor in chief Randolph (Writing, Literature, and Publishing/Emerson Coll.; A Sandhills Ballad, 2009, etc.) and her husband made an offer on a house so derelict that it needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. Although making any life-altering decisions seemed both risky and frivolous, Randolph felt that living in the country might afford them some safety: They would have a well, enough land to grow food and room to shelter their families. “These strange survivalist thoughts surprised me,” she writes, “but in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center, thinking logically was perhaps not anyone’s first concern.” Randolph had not wanted to sell the family’s house in Lincoln, Nebraska, that she and her husband had lovingly restored—and painted pink. But his longing to live in the country finally persuaded her. In this gently told narrative, the author weaves together a month-by-month diary of their arduous renovations with a memoir of the many houses in which she grew up on the Nebraska plains, a brief first marriage that ended tragically and her difficult second marriage. She painfully extricated herself from that relationship, fighting for custody of her children, and liberated herself, also, from her family’s fundamentalist religion. “Despite feeling less burdened now that I’ve laid my faith aside,” she admits, “I’ll confess I feel life is less magical, less intensely personal, too. While I had faith, I felt I was the center of a meaningful drama, part of the vital fight over my soul.” Rebuilding her house, though, grounded her in unexpected ways: Fearful of change, she discovered that “stability is a state of mind as much as it is a state of being.” Rather than regret her loss of religion, she rediscovered her belief “in its most important tenets: love, forgiveness, mercy.” A tender memoir notable for its modest voice and delicate prose.