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Bailey Merlin
A Lot of People Live in This House

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

A Lot of People Live in This House follows introvert Rachel; after a devastating loss, she arrives at the house on the hill alone as her partner Job attends a meditation retreat in India for two weeks to unpack his own grief. She’s greeted by housemates who smile, bring her cups of tea, and seem happy she’s there. She hates it. Not long after, Job is trapped in India by a virus that’s grounded just about every plane in the world. As she falls apart, her new housemates rally to find a way to get Job home. Everything Rachel thought she knew about living with others flies out the window and leaves only one remaining truth: Life can be a lot at once, but you don’t have to do it alone.
Merlin’s heartwarming debut follows a married woman who unexpectedly finds her family of choice during the Covid-19 pandemic. Thirty-something Rachel has worked hard to overcome loss in her life. Ten years earlier, her parents and two younger brothers died together in an RV accident. Recently, her first child, Siobhan, was stillborn. In early 2020, a few months after Siobhan’s death, she and her husband, Job, embark from their home in Chicago for a globe-trotting trip as an attempt to recover from their grief. While they’re in Egypt, Rachel is offered a job as grant manager for Harvard Medical School, and she returns alone to the U.S., where she moves into a 10-bedroom shared house in Boston, while Job continues alone to India with the expectation that he’ll join her a few weeks later. Rachel, an intensely private person, at first questions if she can handle living with so many people, and eagerly awaits Job’s arrival. When the pandemic hits, stranding Job in India, Rachel’s supportive new roommates, many of whom are from other countries and know people around the world, attempt to help Job get back to the U.S. As the virus continues to spread, Merlin expertly keeps readers guessing which of the housemates will be affected, and her well-drawn characters demonstrate the strength that comes from community. Readers will want to see more from Merlin. (Self-published)