The Kingsley House


I’ve always had a soft spot for multi-generational sagas, although The Kingsley House is much more than these simple words can describe. Using the occupants of a longtime family residence in Livonia, Michigan, as its focal point, it also recounts 150 years in the life of small-town Midwestern America.

In 1843, Nathan Kingsley, the author’s third great-grandfather, lovingly builds a home from the ground up for his future wife Mary. More a pioneer settlement than a town, Livonia slowly grows over the years to become first a burgeoning suburb of Detroit, and eventually a small city in its own right. Though the house focuses the story, however, it’s the characters and their stories which make it memorable. Nathan and Mary survive their first venture as unsuspecting abolitionists along the Underground Railroad, their granddaughter Gertrude overcomes early tragedy to live on as the family matriarch, and in 1977 her granddaughter Laura saves the house from demolition by having it physically moved to a historic preservation site, where it can be visited today.

The author, Laura’s daughter, has created in The Kingsley House an unforgettable portrait of her own family, complete with genealogical notes (I would have loved to have seen some photos). All family members are true-to-life individuals, with plenty of flaws and foibles, and as with every family, there’s the occasional black sheep. It’s remarkable that in a tale of over 400 pages, the story never drags: the action-filled storyline and the personalities of the characters keep it alive. I enjoyed every minute.

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