The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

Oh. My. Dear. Lord. I had a braingasm. (Yes, it’s a thing.)


Now, I’m brain farting. I know this because I can only make noise with my throat and it sounds all windy and daft. How does one translate throaty fart noise into coherence? I hardly know where to begin.

Maybe here:

I came to reading later in life. We didn’t have books read to us a great deal when we were kids, and when I got to high school my typing teacher expressed more passion in speed and accuracy than my English teacher did in books that might interest a daydreaming teen like me. (Although, if typing was an Olympic sport, I’d be a contender. Not a bad skill to have as a professional writer.)

This is no big deal. It just means I’ve experienced less of the brain-heart static that good writing gives off. My batteries, perhaps, aren’t as a charged as someone who has been reading longer than I.

However, Anna Spargo-Ryan’s The Paper House got me all caught up.

“Heather and Dave have found the perfect place to raise their first child. The house has character, but it’s the garden that really makes it: red-faced impatiens, pockmarked gums, six upright pittosporums to keep the neighbours out. It’s a jungle. A hiding place. A refuge.

And then, without warning, that life is over.

Heartbreaking, fearless, and ablaze with a coruscating beauty all its own, The Paper House tells the story of a woman sinking into the depths of grief and the desperate efforts of her loved ones to bring her up for air. A sharp-eyed bittersweet depiction of the love between parents and children, and the havoc that it can wreak.”

How The Paper House inspired my writing


Spargo-Ryan’s evocation is dreamy and, at times, I stopped reading so I could soak up her words and let the feeling or experience resonate:

“The storm came in its work boots.”

“The words came down the stairs, single-file – clouds, storms, a frozen river – and I caught them and they were heavy in my hands.”

**brain fart**

I don’t have another book in my mind-library that uses words the way Spargo-Ryan did with The Paper House.

I couldn’t get past a page without an eye bulge, squeak, or swallowed vowel.  I just felt. I soaked up the words and let the fullness hang out in my heart and stomach. I might have looked a bit brain-farty while I read, but my gut was happy in its full, electric sponginess.

Ah, such joy.


Maybe I have a voice, or maybe I’m still developing it. I don’t know. It’s like looking at yourself in the mirror versus seeing yourself on video. One’s all postured voguing, and the other’s movement, personality, and mood. In the mirror, your face is obscured by the giant whitehead at the end of your nose or the tentacle-like hair sprouting from your chin. In a video, the zit and chin hair are light years away from the world of belle moi filling the screen. You know the zit and chin hair exist, but they’re antimatter amid your heavenly body.

Spargo-Ryan’s voice is a heavenly body while mine orbits zits and chin hair. Although, I’m inspired to squeeze, pluck and get the hell on with it.

2 thoughts on “The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

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