The House of Kane by Barbara Casey tells the story of Aislinn Marchant; an editor, teacher and author whom Kane Publishing hires to investigate rejected submissions subsequently published by other houses, most notably its competitor, Sheldon-Talbert. In chronicling this tale, Casey explores universal themes: sibling rivalry, parent-child relationships, marital breakdown, social norms, betrayal, ambition and the quest for personal and professional fulfillment.
Set in West Palm Beach, southern Florida and New York City, the novel begins with a Prologue. The nine chapters of Part One introduce characters, outline the situation and establish conflict. Casey builds suspense drawing readers into a compelling plot and the eight chapters of Part Two bring a satisfactory resolution.
The book explains the submission process and will appeal to authors as well as those keen to grasp a general understanding of a career in this area. Casey’s insight with respect a writer’s psyche is noteworthy. Aislinn’s internal musings from Chapter Four and the comments of a secretary intent on being a writer in Chapter Severn provide examples:
“It had passed. He would feel all right now. But Aislinn would feel it for the rest of her life. It was the way she was. It was why she was a writer. She not only empathized with people, she could literally feel their pain, ….”
“I want to be a writer. And the way I see it, in order to be a good writer I need to be observant of everything, especially the frailties of mankind.”
An astute observer of human nature, Casey creates complicated characters. Dr. Robert Marchant, Aislinn’s ex-husband with whom she maintains amiable and affectionate ties, is a neurosurgeon who, for several reasons, examines his life’s purpose. This Chapter Thirteen excerpt captures his sombre mood and Casey merits praise in her parsing.
“None of it brought him any pleasure….Whatever goal he accomplished for the hospital, whatever surgery he performed, it was just something to cross off his endless list….He didn’t feel the passion he had once felt for what he did….The sad thing was, he didn’t know what else he could do. Medicine had been his whole life. There was nothing else.”
Casey earns notice for imagining Snow Hendersen. Born and raised in the mountains of North Carolina with an eighth grade education, she pens a non-fiction work core to the conflict. A distinctive female, she acquires “gifts” after lightning strikes her including clairvoyance.
There are numerous well-crafted descriptions deserving mention. This partial passage from Chapter Four helps picture the home of Miss Lottie Howard in the El Cid area of West Palm Beach.
“The porch, anchored in gingerbread, spanned the entire front of the house. Groupings of wicker furniture, large green ferns, pots of white impatiens, and a couple of small palms were strategically placed around the area. Ceiling paddle fans quietly circulated the air above. Each side of the massive double front door revealed a bevelled glass window in which tall grasses and cranes or similar south Florida bird had been etched.”
In conclusion, Barbara Casey launches each chapter with writing-themed quotes. A clever engagement tool, James Bryce’s in Chapter Sixteen is particularly relevant to this book.
“The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.”
The reader will reflect on The House of Kane long after finishing the last word.