Memoirs are tricky, especially when the author isn't widely kwn. But Janis Stout tackles the memoir with a new and inventive approach--she organizes her memories around the houses she's lived in. Sometimes, she wrote, I picture my life as a long row of houses. Houses, she claims, are metaphors for the structures of our lives, and Stout's houses twine their way through this memoir along with reflections on work and retirement, marriages good and bad, and quietness for engaging in the important last work of life. She is, she says, a little different in each house--but each house shaped who she became as she prepared to move into the last house, the house of retirement A college professor, mother of four sons, and wife, she writes of her early life through the lens of the houses she lived in at the time of events. There was the rock house of her early childhood from which she escaped to a failed early marriage that produced her sons. Other houses enfold her determination to finish college and her PhD; her concern for a son who is blind and brain-damaged; and, finally, a new, happy and enduring marriage. Stout recounts the planning and building of the dream house in the New Mexico mountains, where she and her husband, Loren, would build new lives in retirement. And then their lives take a sudden turn when health issues made the house impractical. New Mexico wasn't, after all, the last house.
JANIS P. STOUT retired from Texas A&M University in 2002 as dean of faculties and associate provost. She is author of three novels and ten scholarly books, most recently, Coming Out of War: Poetry, Grieving, and the Culture of the World Wars and Picturing a Different West: Vision and Illustration in the Tradition of Cather and Austin.