As someone who usually consumes books at the rate of 2 a week, this book turned the tables: it consumed me and I've been haunted by it ever since.
The language - exquisite and clear as crystal - is perfectly married to chronicling the interior worlds of loss and longing, rendered with such precision and depth that you recognize them as your own. I'm not a sentimental person in the least, but I was unexpectedly moved to tears by the poignancy of passages which express, better than anywhere else in prose, the human search to be known and understood. I found myself reading slower and slower - not merely to postpone the inevitable, but because the writing is so densely beautiful that each sentence is worthy of marvel, so effortlessly poetic and precise as to be almost supernatural.
Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, the eccentric and remote sister of their dead mother. The family house is in the small town of Fingerbone on a glacial lake in the Far West, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town "chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere." Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transcience.