Reviews

  • 13 Nov 2014

    praise for Leaving the Pink House :
    “The land in Nebraska may be mostly flat, but it’s the sky that matters. “We were erased in that great expanse, and beneath it we knew our place,” writes Ladette Randolph. “We are all but annihilated under the burden of the sky.” In this lyrical, carefully observed memoir, Randolph tells of another burden: the fundamentalist Christianity of her childhood, a harsh faith that pushed her into marriage and from which she escaped, but not without pain. As the book opens, it’s the day after Sept. 11, 2001, and Randolph and her husband have just bought a wreck of a house in the country. In alternating chapters, she details the renovation and revisits her past; both processes involve demolition and reclamation. In the end, the book’s heart isn’t in its house; it’s in the people Randolph describes, these Nebraskans with “their sly irony, their dry sense of humor, their stubbornness, and their impatience with pretensions of any kind.” by Kate Tuttle”

    Boston Globe
  • 13 Nov 2014

    praise for Leaving the Pink House :
    “Ladette Randolph is both an editor and a writer; she is currently the editor of the fine literary magazine Ploughshares, whose founder, DeWitt Henry, I interviewed about that magazine’s history, and she’s written a total of four books and edited three more. She was previously an acquiring editor at University of Nebraska Press and earlier, the managing editor of Prairie Schooner. She has received four Nebraska Book Awards, a Rona Jaffe grant, a Pushcart Prize, a Virginia Faulkner award, and has been reprinted in Best New American Voices. Ladette grew up and lived much of her life in Nebraska. In this really well written and beautifully composed memoir, Leaving the Pink House, she tells the story of her life through the houses she has lived in. At first, the book appears to be a relatively straightforward memoir of buying a dilapidated farmhouse to fulfill a dream of country living (the day after September 11, 2001), and the complication of leaving the pink house she and her husband had already turned into the house of their dreams. But Randolph is writing to understand herself and where she comes from. Leaving one beloved house for another that is full of potential (for good and bad) spurs her into exploring her past life through the houses in which she lived. And she essentially tells herself – and her readers – where she came from, and how she became the person who is able to love and inhabit her own being in the present by exploring her life through the houses in which she lived from her early youth onward. Randolph grew up in small towns in Nebraska; her father took his family with him as he worked to become an evangelical minister. Randolph tells us what it was like for her to experience the world through the lens of fundamentalism as she grew up and then into her early adult years. She experiences a series of awakenings, tragedies and struggles, all told without over dramatization and alternating with the mundane and always challenging work of remodeling the old house in the country and preparing to move from the pink house. It’s an engaging and perceptive form of storytelling and much like a remodeling job itself, we learn with her as she goes through the work of tearing down and rebuilding the structure of her life. I greatly enjoyed reading this book, vicariously experiencing her challenges and accomplishments, and learning about her life experiences. Then having the opportunity to talk with Ladette about it only amplified my interest in her writing. by David Wilk”

    Writerscast
  • 20 Oct 2014

    praise for Leaving the Pink House :
    “Ladette Randolph’s lovely, moving “Leaving the Pink House” is an old-fashioned memoir: No composite characters, no long paragraphs of dubiously recollected dialogue, no shattering trauma. This is a thoughtful, graceful remembrance of a woman’s life, told through homes loved and lost. “I best understand my life through the houses where I’ve lived,” she says, and when you reach the end you will, too. In 2001, Randolph and her husband bought a falling-down house on 20 acres of land outside of Lincoln, Neb. They already owned a house in Lincoln: an old pink house “with good bones,” one that they spent years renovating. Randolph was happy there. The country home, which needs new roof, new floors, new wiring, new insulation, new windows, new everything, is not her idea. It is her husband’s dream, and she goes along with it because she loves him, which doesn’t mean there isn’t strife and regret and occasional resentment. The narrative is interspersed with chapters of flashback, looking back to the homes of her childhood and young adulthood. There is no deep drama here: just the tedious task of mudding sheetrock, worrying about bills, fretting about the carpenter who is late delivering — or even starting — a necessary banister; racing against time to get the house done in time for the inspection; angst that they are leaving something beautiful for something flawed. No, no great drama, just the stuff that makes up daily life, and in Randolph’s calm voice and limpid prose, it becomes a study in hard work, faith and love. by Laurie Hertzel ”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • 16 Oct 2014

    praise for Leaving the Pink House :
    “Leaving the Pink House In this memoir, Ladette Randolph and her husband, Noel, sell their rustic-chic house in Lincoln, Nebraska in order to move to a derelict farm in the country outside of town. Since they've taken a bridge loan, the couple must complete the renovation of the new house within nine months, and the story is organized around the process of redoing roofs, and finding kitchen cabinets, as the clock ticks down and contracting mishaps multiply. But it's a misleadingly lighthearted structure, because, as Randolph redoes her new home, she looks back on her many past ones, revealing powerful events with an understated elegance that only makes them more powerful. These include: her survival from a rare blood cancer in her 20s, her departure from the fundamental Christian church in which she was raised and her horrific divorce during which her 5-year-old daughter was forced by a judge to choose between parents—and could not. Leaving the Pink House is one of those books that helps you realize the enormity of the so-called average human experience. "This is the story of my life," writes Randolph about the night she decides to leave her narcissistic husband during a cancer treatment, but then is discouraged by a nurse, "moments of crystalline perception followed by a sluggish indecision and an eager willingness to talk myself out of my own best interest." It's a feeling we've all had at least once in our lives. But for this writer, in this memoir, that crystalline perception appears to have returned to reside permanently on the page. reviewed by Leigh Newman”

    Oprah.com
  • 11 Sep 2014

    praise for Leaving the Pink House :
    “On Sept. 12, 2001, Ploughshares editor in chief Randolph (Writing, Literature, and Publishing/Emerson Coll.; A Sandhills Ballad, 2009, etc.) and her husband made an offer on a house so derelict that it needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. Although making any life-altering decisions seemed both risky and frivolous, Randolph felt that living in the country might afford them some safety: They would have a well, enough land to grow food and room to shelter their families. “These strange survivalist thoughts surprised me,” she writes, “but in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center, thinking logically was perhaps not anyone’s first concern.” Randolph had not wanted to sell the family’s house in Lincoln, Nebraska, that she and her husband had lovingly restored—and painted pink. But his longing to live in the country finally persuaded her. In this gently told narrative, the author weaves together a month-by-month diary of their arduous renovations with a memoir of the many houses in which she grew up on the Nebraska plains, a brief first marriage that ended tragically and her difficult second marriage. She painfully extricated herself from that relationship, fighting for custody of her children, and liberated herself, also, from her family’s fundamentalist religion. “Despite feeling less burdened now that I’ve laid my faith aside,” she admits, “I’ll confess I feel life is less magical, less intensely personal, too. While I had faith, I felt I was the center of a meaningful drama, part of the vital fight over my soul.” Rebuilding her house, though, grounded her in unexpected ways: Fearful of change, she discovered that “stability is a state of mind as much as it is a state of being.” Rather than regret her loss of religion, she rediscovered her belief “in its most important tenets: love, forgiveness, mercy.” A tender memoir notable for its modest voice and delicate prose.”

    Kirkus