Books are the mirrors of the soul. ~Virginia Woolf

Love is not effortless. Love fails. It causes pain. It fades into memory. It changes and fluctuates. Sometimes it’s conditional. And sometimes it’s not enough. But sometimes, despite all its flaws, it is forever. Ulrica Hume’s collection of interrelated short stories, House of Miracles, examines love in all of these permutations.

Starting with an ensemble cast of seemingly unrelated characters, Hume eventually connects each of them through one of three characters whose relationship to each other and the others runs as a thread through all of the stories. Janet is a young woman living with her boyfriend, Jack, but having an affair with a co-worker and uncertain of the direction of her life and her heart. She is kind to her elderly neighbor Mrs. von Meurs, a woman at the end of her life who looks back on her experiences and her loves from a different perspective. Each of the short stories in the collection either adds another character or builds on Janet’s, Jack’s, or Mrs. von Meurs’ past, slowly building each character and the reasons why they react to love the way that they do. The stories are full of heartbreak, sadness, and a poignancy for loves that don’t end the way that movies do. There’s a realism here, a quiet beauty in the writing, and an acknowledgment of the way in which the human heart continues to endure and strive for that forever love, whether it be between lovers or friends or family.

Kristen, BookNAround

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Impressive book House of Miracles is a beautiful book. A compilation of interrelated short stories, excellently written, with clear and strong characters, vivid description and compelling language. It leaves a person with a feeling of wonder.

Joyce, Amazon.com, 5 stars

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House of Miracles proclaims itself to be “a collection of interrelated stories about love.” And it is. But it’s also much more than that. This is a collection of vignettes that, when combined, give piercing insight into the lives of multiple characters. And it is softly, quietly, mightily beautiful.

This book reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, with its eclectic, interrelated ensemble cast. In this case, though, time changes as well as point of view, and the narrators aren’t revealed at the start of the stories, so the reader is kept guessing. I enjoy being kept on my literary toes, so to speak, and had great fun trying to guess whose story I was in as well as “when” I was and how this character would tie in with the others.

Ulrica Hume’s writing has a soaring, airy, yet realistic quality that I truly enjoyed. I found myself underlining sentences, not because of their profundity, but because of the beautifully simplistic way she has of making the everyday seem poetic. For instance, of Leong, an immigrant from Laos whose husband’s life had come to a violent early end, “Her heart was a rain-filled flower.”

Or this gem, as Janet ponders her future while assisting the elderly Mrs. von Meurs: “I feared that one day I’d find myself in the same situation: old and alone in a crumbling gingerbread house of sweetly decaying, once beautiful dreams.”

Don’t let all my talk of beauty fool you, though: there is sadness in these stories, too. Heartbreak, loneliness, and uncertainty abound. But through it all, there is love. And isn’t that what life is all about?

All in all: High-quality writing and interesting, touching subject matter. Much more moving than I expected. (I’m still not entirely sure why, but the parts about the hope chest made me well up. [I’m about to cry just typing this, actually.])

Kelly Woodward, You Can Read Me Anything

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Earlier this week, I read “Poppies,” a short story by Ulrica Hume, one of our authors on Story Cartel. Initially, I had only planned on skimming a few pages, but the first line hooked me. Before long, I was finishing the last page…Here’s the line from Ulrica Hume’s “Poppies” that caught my attention. “I was born upside down, the umbilical cord looped twice around my neck.” It’s a simple sentence, but I love it. “Born upside down.” There’s something at once whimsical and perilous and messy about that image.

Joe Bunting, The Write Practice

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house of miracles is a book of wonder A book of short stories that connect with a fine silk thread that delicately weaves them together. Give it time to feel the flow and you’ll be in love with House of Miracles.

The three main characters throughout are Jack, elderly Mrs. Von Meurs and Janet…yet there is much more, it’s a book about life, deep and thought-provoking. One quote stays with me: ” Life is full of changes. Everything changes from one thing and becomes something else, and then at the end of all the changes you disappear.”

I think any reader would be doing themselves a favor by reading this one! Hume has delved into the human psyche and pulled out treasures…

Yankeelin, Amazon.com, 5 stars

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…Through these characters, we readers explore the quotidian cruelties and failures of love that occur behind the closed doors of neighbors and friends…

Recommended for those wishing to explore the fleeting bliss and regular disappointment born of profoundly flawed “love”; to face the realities of old age, dementia, and death from within another person’s perspective; or to muse upon how proximity and habit impact the formation of our friendships, familial relationships, and even our romantic partnerships.

Laurie, What She Read

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Anyone picking up Ulrica Hume’s latest book, House of Miracles, is in for a treat. The author chooses to focus on three major characters and interweave them through the lives of others, as well as the limitations of time and place. We meet Janet, an indecisive woman with an ugly past. There is Jack, Janet’s sometimes boyfriend who seems to lack a direction in life. Lastly, there is Mrs. von Meurs who is filled with eccentricities, life experience, and wisdom. There are many lessons contained in the book, the most prominent of which might be that negative and noxious life events may simply be the difficult gifts offered by life so that the desired consequences can be even more deeply appreciated. This is a no-nonsense book, rich with joy and sadness. At times, it reads like a work of prose. The simplicity of many of the author’s statements must be consumed and digested so that the full depth of the story is revealed to the reader.

Although most readers would conclude that Hume’s writing is earthy, there is also a nearly ethereal quality at times. House of Miracles is a seemingly simple and yet poignant story of life, love, and taking chances on personal need and personal growth. Sometimes, you know you are at the right place and the time is ripe to act. Sometimes, you just understand the person you are with is one with whom you could share a lifetime of memories. Sometimes, you simply comprehend that love is such a personal preference that no definition or explanation can steer you in the right direction. And yes, this book makes you think about all those things—and so much more!

Karen Pirnot, Readers’ Favorite, 5 stars 5-star-large

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Interesting read about two women connected by proximity and the ways in which their lives intersect. Hope is their beacon and it shines bright in these stories. Definitely a great book to settle down with!

Nadia, A Bookish Way of Life

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Gossamer thought-provoking miracles I loved this book. I read it some time after reading Ms. Hume’s earlier book, the extraordinarily complex, incredibly well-researched, fascinating literary tome, An Uncertain Age. That book was a pure joy to read, took me quite a while to digest, and made me constantly think, turning over thoughts in my head about what she’d said. A magnificent book. Now, this book, House of Miracles, is gossamer-light, in comparison…or is it? I read it much faster; indeed, I couldn’t put it down, but when I’d finished it, it, too, made me think. What is love? The question every single person comes up against in life. How are our lives meant to be lived? What is important? What does it all mean? Ms. Hume has a delicate touch, but she “gets to you,” “gets to you deeply,” thereby forcing you to question, and I really liked how she does that in this book. I got completely wrapped up in her characters. With every seemingly separate story I quickly found myself searching for a connection. When would one of “my” friends now, “my” characters, show up in this particular story I was on? How would their story connect to an earlier story? The writer is very clever at this sort of thing, entwining lives and characters, making it all make sense in the end, but making you ponder on it all. I found myself sighing when I put it down; it had touched me deeply. Janet, Jack, Mrs. von Meurs. They seem simple-enough characters, but…who are they deep down? Why that couple’s connection to Mrs. von Meurs? It’s a book full of stories but also a book unto itself. And the writer’s way with words! The very first line in the first story (Poppies): “I was born upside down, the umbilical cord looped twice around my neck.” Okay, she’d roped me in immediately; I had to uncover how this was going to affect this character. Who is this character? And later on in the book: “…he raised the film to the sun, setting free all the images.” Butterflies. Goose-bumps for me. See what a gossamer touch the author has. Well done, Ms. Hume!

Shirley the Reader, Amazon.com, 5 stars

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