Minah Okar is content with the home that she and her father have built in Brooklyn, New York. With her hilarious best friend, Nikki, and loving boyfriend, Mike, by her side, Minah feels that she has left her old life in Obsidian, Michigan, behind for good. But when Minah learns that her estranged mother has died, Minah is forced to reconcile memories she’d much rather forget. She returns to Obsidian for the first time in five years to confront the truth about her family’s deepest secrets.
Break This House, the second novel from National Book Award finalist Candice Iloh (Every Body Looking), explores Minah’s joys and heartaches through her immersive first-person narration. Minah is insightful as well as observant, offering vivid descriptions of everything from the smells on New York City subway cars to the cacophony of songs that play simultaneously from different speakers at a family party. Neither the humor nor the horrors of her family’s past escape the broad scope of her pensive reflections.
Iloh’s visceral depictions of Minah’s inner and outer worlds make Break This House’s themes of loss and grief all the more impactful. As Minah sifts through her muddled memories and her family’s fragmented recollections, she begins to determine what she really thinks about herself, her parents and her faith. Suspended between her past and her future, she must craft an identity that honors her family but gives her the agency to make her own choices.
Break This House is a tender, poetic story about what it’s like to experience loss and learn to continue living anyway. It’s heart-wrenching to follow Minah as she tries to answer impossible questions that everyone eventually faces: What must we leave in the past, and how can we move forward without it?