Dream House

Reader's Guide

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Dream House was inspired by "The House," a vandalized fence, and two poems. First, about "The House": That's how everyone refers to the three-story corner monstrosity in Los Angeles's Miracle Mile neighborhood. Unlike "The Dungeon" in the opening scene of Dream House, the real house isn't dark or ugly, but it's oppressive-boxy and oversized-and it incited area residents to seek Historical Overlay Protection Zone (HPOZ) status and prevent the construction of similarly oversized structures.

So now Miracle Mile is an HPOZ, but not everyone is happy. People complain that the HPOZ board is tyrannical, that their rulings are arbitrary and cause unnecessary added expense-and sometimes smack of bias. Last year, when some residents of Hancock Park-a wealthy Los Angeles neighborhood filled with multi-million dollar homes-requested HPOZ status, emotions on both sides ran high, and the campaign turned ugly. One woman remodeling her home told me that neighbors had spray-painted graffiti on her new wrought-iron fence.

I decided there was a story here. I turned that fence vandalism into a series of vandalisms, and I escalated the confrontations into murder. I wanted to explore the conflict between protecting the rights of property owners versus the value of preserving the historical integrity of neighborhoods and buildings. I researched the subject. I attended HPOZ meetings. In the process I learned a great deal about the architecture of Los Angeles, and I learned that when it comes to historical preservation, there is no clear right or wrong. Although some of those meetings.

The truth is that people become intensely emotional about their homes and possessive of their property. Dream House explores those emotions and becomes a metaphor for desire-how far people are willing to go to hold on to their dreams, how those dreams can turn into nightmares, how passion can become obsession.

About the poems: I've always admired "My Last Duchess," Robert Browning's dramatic monologue about a duke who had his wife murdered, and I'm moved every time I read E. A. Robinson's "Reuben Bright," a heart-rending depiction of the grief of a simple butcher who learns that his wife has died. In Dream House I created a husband who is desperate to find out whether the missing wife he adores is alive or dead-or so he claims. Along with my protagonist, Molly Blume, I had to decide whether the husband's grief is feigned or genuine-whether he is Browning's duke or Robinson's butcher.

1. Do you enjoy reading about Molly's family? Who is your favorite family member? Do you find yourself identifying with specific characters? If so, which ones?

2. One of Bubbie G's favorite Yiddish proverbs is, "If it's not as I want it, I want it as it is." Molly isn't sure that she wants "it"--in this case, Zack Abrams. Do you share her concerns about her being a rabbi's girlfriend and, potentially, his wife? Do we all have to make choices at times, to "want" things as they are?

3. Do you enjoy the other Yiddish proverbs sprinkled throughout the book? Which ones resonated with you? Do you have your own favorite proverbs or words of wisdom from family members or books?

4. As a reporter, Molly's job is to ask questions. She's persistent and inquisitive but is motivated by compassion for others and a quest for truth. How would you feel being questioned by Molly? Do you think she resembles most reporters that you see on TV or read about?

5. In the opening of Dream House, Molly reflects about "the House" and the "bad people" that she'd imagined were inside when she was a child. Do you have childhood memories of a house that appeared sinister?

6. Dream House deals with the conflict between historical preservation and the rights of the individual. Do you feel that the book presented both sides fairly?

7. Did you feel that the author was pro or anti historical preservation? Did the book elicit any strong feelings on the subject or change your initial view?

8. People become intensely emotional about their homes and possessive of their property. Dream House explores those emotions and becomes a metaphor for desire--how far people are willing to go to hold on to their dreams, how those dreams can turn into nightmares, how passion can become obsession. Can you apply this metaphor to the various characters in Dream House--Professor Linney; Hank Reston; Tim Bolt, Ned Vaughan.

9. In what way does the title, Dream House, apply to each character?

10. For years Molly had negative beliefs about the reclusive owners of The Dungeon. In general, mysteries encourage us to form suspicions about characters which we later find to be untrue. To what extent do we all form conclusions about real people based on feelings or rumors?

1. How did you feel about Professor Linney? Was your final impression of him mitigated by his frailty and ailing physical condition?

12. Did you think that Tim Bolt killed Maggie and/or her father? At what point did you become suspicious of him?

13. Did you believe that Hank was abusing his father-in-law? That he killed Maggie? Does Hank in any way change your perception of Scott Petersen?

14. Whom did you pinpoint as the killer and why?

15. Were you satisfied with the solution to the mystery? Was the solution fair? Looking back, do you feel that there were enough clues to point you in the right direction?


Dream House is
available in paperback ($6.99; ISBN: 0-449-00727-8) from Fawcett Books, in large print from Thorndike, and in audio, from Brilliance Audiobooks.

 


On sale October 25
($13.95)

 

In paperback

 

 






All Molly Blume titles available from Audiobookstand.com

Reading guides are available for Blues in the Night, Dream House, Grave Endings, and Now You See Me....