Image of Shadow Lawn, the actual house, circa 1060.

Cover of Cleaning House.

Cleaning House
by Nancy Hayfield Birnes

It is hard to imagine that anyone could have much that was fresh to say about suburban life; the “mad housewife” is all too familiar to us. Yet in this accomplished first novel Nancy Hayfield has succeeded precisely in taking that familiar subject matter and transforming it into something new and exciting.

This is the narrative of a young housewife in a bedroom suburb who, with the accumulated baggage of an unsatisfactory marriage, her children’s incessant demands, and the equally strong demands of her memories (particularly of her dead aunt), is unfaithful to her husband. But here all resemblance to “suburban” fiction ends. Nancy Hayfield’s great strength is her irony and her ability to describe. The narrator does not have a blazing affair; rather, she engages in one of the more disappointing orgies on record. As Hayfield knows, the weight of one’s life is not so easy to shift.

The novel is full of extraordinary details. No one, for example, has ever described cleaning a refrigerator in so graphic a fashion. Tough without being bitter, the book is a wise look at everyday life, told by a writer who is already a mature talent and from whom we will hear a great deal more.

(From the original jacket copy, 1980. This Kindle edition has been digitized by the author.)
Read the first chapter and much, much more!
☞ Product details and how to purchase:
  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux; 1st edition (1980)
  • Digital Publisher: Shadow Lawn Press (March 1, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558533079
  • ASIN: B000ILMXDI
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces