MILD SPOILER ALERT!
In the book, Life in Harmony, the settings play a significant part in the story as it unfolds. When Kate and Michael uproot their lives in LA for a new life in the small town of Harmony, the house they buy there and renovate is a metaphor for their relationship.
I love when the couple settles in to spend their first night in their new home. I am sure you can recall in your own experiences how your own first night in a new place felt. You’re a little uncomfortable as the surroundings aren’t familiar. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 7:
That first night proved to be a trying one. Michael laid the mattress down on a bed sheet that Kate used to cover the cold living room floor. The two lay there side by side looking up at the water damaged ceiling. There in the stillness of the house was a crackling sound like that of the silent interlude between songs on an old record album. They listened as the old house settled in around the two of them.
From this passage, we find similarities to where the couple is in their relationship at this moment. The couple is finding the house cold. The water-damaged ceiling above them a reminder of recent tears shed. Then there are those new sounds to remind us that we are in a new place in our life, a new chapter. That final line gives a glimpse that this couple and house are coming together. An intentional hint that this house will a play a part in describing how the journey for the couple will unfold.
The renovations of the house are detailed throughout the book to parallel the restoration the couple makes in their own lives. The first things they fix are the windows. Visible damage they want to hide from the world. Symbols that tells others there is something wrong. The new windows give an illusion that things are alright. They add warmth to the house and are a first barrier of protection against the outside world for a couple who is on the edge.
As you read through the rest of the book and follow the renovations, you will start to see the story the house is telling about the couple. Kate focuses on the kitchen, a place she felt comfort in as a child. Then there is the bathroom, where we are reminded that the necessities of life can’t be ignored. Finally, as Kate starts to put her life in better perspective, there is the living room (once messy and cluttered with moving boxes and renovation trash) and the finishing touches there that make the house come alive. Living returns to the house.
All that remains unfinished is the bedroom. By the time of the house warming party, the bedroom is nearly done but painted in a color Kate doesn’t like and without pictures on the wall. This should call back her bedroom from the house in LA that opens the book. “The blank, pale walls of their undecorated bedroom were cold and gray; colorless reminders of her recent losses.”
Reading the book, we know the couple’s intimacy issues are constantly a focus of the story. In fact, it is itself a symbol of the couple’s reconstructing their own relationship. When everything else seems fixed, at the center of the couple is this void between them in their intimate relationship. The unfinished bedrooms that bookend the story before the climax reminds us that an important part of their marriage is not fixed.
In writing the book, I paid careful attention to the details and descriptions of the house including use of color choices because I wanted the reader to be able to visualize the journey. I also included details for most of the other
locations in the book. Raye’s house is red as it’s as fiery as she is as she represents the spirit of the book. Beck and Lucy’s house is big, bright white with clean trim. It is a well-tended and settled house. Ruth’s shop almost an afterthought in town easily missed, seemingly unimportant. Locations, setting descriptions and colors play an important part in adding deeper value to the story.
If you’ve already read Life in Harmony, I’d invite you to go back through the book and pay attention to the details the setting plays in the story. If you haven’t read the book yet, I would encourage you to give it a try.
Living in the smallest of towns with an array of hippies, farmers and artists, who are as different as they are close, can be taxing enough without the realization that some of Harmony’s residents may not be what they appear. When Michael and Kate uproot their lives in LA after a miscarriage and move to Harmony, CA (Population 18), they had no idea they’d be sharing their home with a spiritual apparition of a four-year-old girl named Ruby. “Life in Harmony” entertains the thought that the trials we face happen for a reason, and sometimes it takes supernatural intervention for us to understand ourselves, our relationships and the world around us.
Life in Harmony is available now from Pangloss Sea. Click one of the links below to purchase the book today!
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