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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
All the Houses

All the Houses

A Novel

Karen Olsson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux


A bittersweet, biting, sharply observed family drama from the author of Waterloo

After her father has a heart attack and subsequent surgery, Helen Atherton returns to her hometown of Washington, D.C., to help take care of him and, perhaps more honestly, herself. She's been living in Los Angeles, trying to work in Hollywood, slowly spiraling into a depression fueled by hours spent watching C-SPAN-her obsession with politics a holdover from a childhood interrupted by her father's involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. "I don't know whether to think of him as a coconspirator or a complicit bystander or just someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time." Though the rest of the world has forgotten that scandal, the Atherton family never quite recovered. While living with her father in her childhood home, Helen tries to piece together the political moves that pulled her family apart.
All the Houses is, at its heart, a father-daughter story. With razor-sharp prose, an alluring objectivity, and a dry sense of humor, Karen Olsson writes about the shape-shifting of our family relationships when outside forces work their way in-how Washington turns people into unnatural versions of themselves, how problematic and overbearing sisters can be, and how familial nostalgia that sets in during early adulthood can prove counterproductive to actually becoming an adult.

For a few years my father was known. I mean his name was known, in Washington. It floated in the swirl of names around the Reagan White House: not a big name, not a Weinberger or a Deaver, a Casey, a Meese, but one that surfaced every so often in...

Praise for All the Houses

“A melancholy comedy of Texas politics [written] with great wit and assurance.” —Mark Costello, The New York Times Book Review with praise for Waterloo

“A funny, intelligent novel about people who are at odds and at home with each other.” —James Whorton Jr., The Washington Post with praise for Waterloo


Karen Olsson

Karen Olsson is the author of the novel Waterloo. She has written about politics, science, and popular culture for magazines, including The New York Times Magazine and Texas Monthly, where she is a contributing editor. She is also a former editor of The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she now lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.

image of Karen Olssono
Matt Valentine

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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