The Muir House by Mary DeMuth

When I first delved into The Muir House by Mary DeMuth, I unexpectedly lost my desire to read it. I wasn’t sure why. I blamed it on Mary’s descriptive language. Her wordsmith power was slowing down the story line, I reasoned. That’s why I can’t get into it. I know now that was just an excuse.
The truth was that something triggered in me that scared me. Willa, the main character, relentlessly pursued the truth in her past. She obsessed over filling the memory gaps of her childhood. Somewhere in my subconscious I connected with Willa, and I became afraid for her – afraid of what she would find out. Would it help her to live a more productive life or would it hinder her happiness? Yet on the other hand, she had to clear the roadblocks that still held her back from allowing Hale’s love into her heart, didn’t she?
For a few days I refused to open the book. Instead I read something that wouldn’t make me wonder about the gaps in my own memory. Then with a sigh in my soul, dreading to find out the truth but needing to know, I again picked up the book and found myself captivated in her quest for truth.
Willa has a chance for unconditional love in Hale, but she refuses it. Instead she decides to go back to her childhood home to sort out her history. Why does her mother dislike her? Why couldn’t she piece together the holes in her memories?
Hale, who often expresses his thoughts in symbolism, believes Willa halfheartedly bats away her crazy, painful life like a buzzing fly, but eventually she captures it to herself. She actually welcomes chaos in her life, because it feels safe and comfortable, but she runs from normalcy and love. Though her rejection of his love stings, he chooses to allow Willa the space and time she needs to find herself and “home.”
The Muir House is an unforgettable journey of trauma, healing, and love. My hesitancy when I first started reading this book testifies to Mary’s ability to get into the mind of her readers. Her characters are so vivid and real that they first shook me up, but they now have found comfortable couches in my heart.
Mary has graciously taken the time to answer some questions I asked her:
  • I admired Willa and her courage to relentlessly pursue the truth in her past, no matter what anyone said against it. In an interview about your characters with Bibledude, you mentioned you were frustrated with her to the point that “you had to put up with her for a while.” What most frustrated you about her and why?

Mary: What frustrated me is that I could see from my vantage point that whether she knew the truth or not, she still had a choice to live today. And when she couldn’t realize that truth, I grew annoyed. (I know this sounds crazy, but this is what an author’s brain does.) Which of course reminds me that God can see all our lives and has such a great plan for us to be joyful in the moment, but we get stuck and can’t see out of our heartache.

  • According to your personal experience in dealing with the past, when is filling in the memory gaps essential to living a more productive, peaceful life? At what point can it become damaging to oneself and others?

Mary: I still have gaps, so I’ve had to learn to let them be. If I keep pushing to find them, I may be shortchanging or circumventing God’s sovereign plan for my life. Sometimes God blocks our memories. Sometimes He reveals them, all with the intention of healing us. He doesn’t reveal everything at once or we would quit the healing process. The key is to trust His timing and not try to create our own.

  • In many ways Hale exemplifies Christ. What Christ-like traits did you specifically desire to portray to your readers?

Mary: A steady, settled love no matter what the other person does. So many of us doubt that aspect of Jesus’ love, so I wanted Hale to personify that stick-with-it-ness of Jesus.

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