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Terrace Story


Terrace Story

Book lovers know that sometimes a slim text can contain large ideas and huge worlds, the interior imaginative space grander and greater than the object held in the hand. HOUSE OF LEAVES, Mark Z. Danielewski’s lengthy postmodern novel, famously experimented with space, putting his characters in a house larger on the inside than on the outside. The result was chilling for readers and traumatic for the characters. In TERRACE STORY, Hilary Leichter also creates vast space --- material and emotional --- from seemingly limited stuff and does so successfully in under 200 pages.

"This is a wonderful and original novel with so many big and fascinating ideas in a perfectly sized package."

Even before she was born, Stephanie could literally shape the world around her. She could raise ceilings, make rooms longer, extend a grassy field by inches, feet or miles. While her manipulations are often subtle, a new hiding space frightens the babysitter, and a larger playground raises the ire of zoners and landscapers. The same growing playground is still too small and slow to keep Stephanie’s little sister safe from traffic, and the loss couples Stephanie’s gift with sorrow.

Stephanie finds herself essentially alone in the world, a “fortress” with no friends or parents she can rely on. It is not until college that she trusts anyone with the facts of what she can do, but then that trust is betrayed by the person she loves most. Years later, she meets Annie through work. Annie is genuinely kind to her. But it’s when she creates a terrace in the apartment that Annie shares with her husband, Edward, and their baby daughter, Rose, that a real friendship seems to form.

When they open the door to the impossible terrace, Annie and Edward are shocked yet intrigued. It only exists when Stephanie is there, so they invite her over as much as they can. The four of them enjoy hours and hours on the terrace together, and at first there are few signs that anything is amiss with this magic. Annie first grows wary, but by the time she begins to articulate her worries, it’s too late and it seems the quartet may be separated forever.

In four sections, Leichter shares Stephanie’s story and how it intersects with that of Annie’s family --- from her grandparents to her daughter. TERRACE STORY has some delightful surprises and a real sense of wonder, yet it is laced with sadness and longing. In fact, Stephanie’s grief and loneliness grows architectural, paralleling her abilities to transform the solid world around her. Leichter uses these architectural metaphors and allusions to great effect. The final section of the book takes the characters to unexpected places, but the emotional tenor and Leichter’s narrative voice remain constant --- thoughtful, creative, strange and powerful.

The magic in TERRACE STORY is important and drives the story, but the tale Leichter has created transcends it. It is used as a way to explore loneliness and aloneness, want and need, friendship and family, trust and responsibility. This is a wonderful and original novel with so many big and fascinating ideas in a perfectly sized package.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on August 25, 2023

Terrace Story
by Hilary Leichter

  • Publication Date: August 29, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • ISBN-10: 0063265818
  • ISBN-13: 9780063265813