Kephart, Beth. 2008. House of Dance.
You cannot buy a man who is dying a single meaningful thing. You can only give him back the life he loved, and wake up his memories. (98)
Rosie, our narrator, is fifteen the summer she learns her grandfather is dying of cancer. And so begins Rosie's daily journeys, he lives across town. A walk or quick bike ride away. It is then that she begins to learn his life stories, to see him in a whole new light, to rediscover what his life was all about. She begins to take inventory of his life--of his house, of his possessions. With almost everything there is a story. Some things are placed "In Trust." Other things are thrown away. Each day is an adventure. Each day is a gift.
Rosie develops a special bond with her grandfather and begins to love him or understand him in a way she hadn't before. When she stumbles into a dance studio--near his home--she decides to do something uncharacteristic for her. She decides to take dance lessons, private dance lessons. She hopes to give him a party to celebrate his life, to show him just how much she loves him. "The dance was alive. That was what I knew. The dance was something whole. The dance was hope, and hope was what I needed most of all the summer my granddad died. Hope was what I began to put In Trust, above all other things. Hope, which comes in all the brightest colors." (92)
Why did she choose dance? Ballroom dance? Her grandmother loved to dance, loved to wear red, loved to be vibrant. And her grandfather loved to watch her. Loved to listen to music--music from the Rat Pack, for example, and other legends in jazz and swing.
Rosie's life is far from perfect. There is her absentee mother that is in a relationship with a married man. A woman who cares more for her foolish love affair than taking care of her own father. It is Rosie--not her mother--that tends to him, visits him, loves and adores him. We don't see a full picture of Rosie's life. We don't see her interacting with her best friends, flirting with cute guys, going shopping, etc. We see a small slice of Rosie's life. We see a tender and intricate relationship developing between grandfather and granddaughter.
Rosie may think her greatest gift was the gift of dance, the gift of celebrating him and his life one last time, but her greatest gift was her time, was herself. Their souls touched and danced that summer as they shared each day together.
Tender story. Loving portrayal of an ugly time. Dying isn't pretty. It can tear you up and bring you down. If you let it. Rosie found a way to bring hope and courage and integrity to the situation. And you've got to love that. I loved Rosie for her strength, her courage, her love. Great character. Great book.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews