Home care nurse Emily Klein usually loves her work. But her new assignment, prenatal visits to a young woman under house arrest for the death of her toddler daughter during a Solstice ceremony, makes her uneasy. Maybe it’s Pippa Glenning’s odd household and the house arrest monitor. Or the court involvement that reminds Emily of her parents’ political activism and her father’s imprisonment. But when she can’t get out of the assignment, Emily is determined to do right by her high-profile and unconventional patient.
Pippa’s racially mixed Family of Isis is in turmoil. Without Tianthe cult leader and Pippa’s lover, who is in jail awaiting trial for the deaths of two toddlers, the group struggles to keep the household and their Tea Room business functioning. If Pippa follows the rules of her house arrest, she may be allowed to keep her baby, but as the pregnant woman in the family it’s her duty to dance for Isis at the upcoming winter Solstice ceremony. To escape the house arrest without being caught, she needs Emily’s help.
Despite their differences, Emily and Pippa’s friendship grows. Emily’s friends, her cousin Anna with whom she lives, Anna’s ex-husband Sam who shares in caring for their young daughter Zoe with spina bifida, her best friend Gina, all warn Emily that Pippa is trouble. When her grandfather dies, Emily reluctantly agrees to accompany Anna to the island in Maine where she was sent to live when her father went to prison. On the island, Emily begins to grapple with her parents? choices a generation earlier.
At home, the media hypes the Frozen Babies Case. Anti-cult sentiment in the city escalates to angry protests and increasing violence. As the winter Solstice approaches, both Emily and Pippa make decisions about their responsibilities to their families, their communities, and to each other– decisions that put their lives, and Pippa’s unborn baby– in jeopardy.
Set in Springfield, Massachusetts and on an island in Penobscot Bay, the story is told from the alternating points of view of Emily, Pippa, Sam, and Gina. House Arrest explores the meaning of family loyalty when beliefs conflict, and questions the necessity of sometimes breaking rules to serve justice.
Praise for House Arrest (2nd Edition):
“Meeropol raises bold questions and allows her handful of main characters to debate the merits: What constitutes a family, and who decides which variations qualify? When is it acceptable to bend the rules, and at what expense? Is it possible to separate actions from consequences? … Meeropol seems to suggest that moral clarity comes not from blind certainty, but from depths of doubt and questioning, which are nearly palpable in Emily and others. And yet, the story never bogs down, thanks to the ongoing suspense of Pippa’s fate and the interplay of so many vividly-drawn characters. Factor in Meeropol’s effortless style, and an intricate tale becomes almost a referendum on free will. This multi-genre novel defies easy classification. Part medical mystery, morality tale and psychological drama, it’s above all a terrific read.”—Joan Silverman, The Portland Press Herald
“I didn’t plan to do so, but I read it straight through until I got to the end. Only then did I realize that this is the sort of novel I’ve been wanting to read for a very long time. Not just because it is a great story that is beautifully written (I love literary fiction), but also because the characters and their lives are so far afield from the configurations we have come to expect, such as the married parents with their two physically perfect children, living in a single-family home. … House Arrest offers a sophisticated and nuanced approach to questions I like to ponder: How does friendship develop and what determines whether a friendship sticks or comes undone? When is deception warranted in order to protect another person – or is it? How can we live fully and meaningfully outside of the usual boxes that are offered up to us?”—Bella DePaulo, Psychology Today online
“[A]n original, riveting, and suspenseful yet warm and sensitive story that deftly explores the concepts of right and wrong, the unequal balance between rigid law and common sense, the unintended consequences of political activism, and the decisions people make when faced with tough life choices.”—William D. Bushnell, The New Maine Times
“Ellen Meeropol’s courageous debut novel explores what it means to live by the principle of compassion, even in defiance of the rules and the rule-makers. It is about the power of ceremony, the hard road to healing, survival and transcendence in the face of unbearable loss. Meeropol, herself a longtime nurse and activist, brings an authentic voice to this moving tale of the ethical and political choices faced by health care practitioners, and by all of us.”—Martín Espada, The Republic of Poetry
“Meeropol’s characters have empathy for people who’ve done awful things and made terrible mistakes —mistakes that caused death and destruction. A large plot concern, revolving around a religious cult, is handled with great wisdom, managing to avoid the heavy hand of the usual judgment shown around this topic. This, I think, is the genius of House Arrest.”—Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer’s Daughters
“The characters in House Arrest lead rich, complicated lives. Ellen Meeropol has written an intelligent, heartfelt, challenging novel that offers no easy answers and stays with the reader long after the final page has been turned.”—Lesléa Newman, October Mourning