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Ivy Lodge: A Memoir of Translation and Discovery
A professional translator, following the deaths of her parents, Marshall returns to her childhood home to sift through 40 years of contents and uses these translation skills to reinterpret objects, memories evoked by being back in her home. Many of the objects remind her of the often troubling relationship she had within the highly patriarchal family, and serve as a jumping off point for her to begin to forge a new sense of self in the midst of these objects and memories.
A tour of a home, a family, and a life, Marshall’s accomplished, incisive memoir takes as its organizing principle a trip through the eponymous Ivy Lodge, the somewhat regal but “funeral” Tudor that her family purchased in 1960. Linking the purchase to the white flight that reshaped greater St. Louis and other American cities, Marshall, a translator, conducts a moving survey of the home, her familial relationships, and her own understanding of who she is—and, in the process, at last “stop viewing my life through the arbitrary lexicon my parents devised.”

Marshall has made a life, as a translator, finding and explicating the truest of meanings; here, she applies those exacting skills—and her considerable acumen as a prose stylist—to what Miranda Lambert calls “the house that made me,” as well as the people in it and the “cracks in our foundation that no one could fix.” As her story moves through the tumult of the 1960s and the years beyond, with Marshall often feeling herself to be ostracized onto the fringes of the family, Ivy Lodge finds her moving through this memory-haunted home, room by room, centering chapters on the rathskeller basement, the bedrooms (“fancy, impersonal, like showrooms of a model house before it’s occupied”), and the attic that reached from the “curving wrought iron stairs ascending from the foyer.”

Her portraits of family and accounts of conflicts (occasionally explosive, often quietly simmering) prove as striking as her descriptions of her beloved dolls, her father’s toy soldiers, and Ivy Lodge’s lofty gables. Even with such highly personal material, she proves a persuasive, perceptive analyst of the “Murphy dynamic.” Despite the pain of often being made to feel, even as an adult, as if she were unwanted—her mother regards her like she’s a "rare form of beetle under a microscope”—Marshall arrives at touching moments of empathy for the family as she sorts through it all.

Takeaway: A touching reckoning with a family, a home, and one’s place in both, in elegant prose.

Great for fans of: J. Nicole Jones’s Low Country, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A