Dream House

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Book & Author

Dream House is a riveting debut novel that tells the story of a domestic drama that will forever change the lives of two families. When Kate and Stuart Kinzler buy a run-down historic house in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they’re looking for a decent remodeling investment and a little space in which to rekindle their troubled marriage. Instead they discover that their home was the scene of a terrible crime many years ago—a revelation that tips the balance of their precarious union. When a mysterious man begins lurking around her yard, Kate—now alone—is forced to confront her home’s dangerous past.

Valerie Laken Photograph by Jaci Sumner/Illustration by The New York Times

Valerie Laken
Photograph by Jaci Sumner/Illustration by The New York Times

Valerie Laken was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois. She majored in English and Russian at the University of Iowa, then worked and studied in Moscow, Prague, Krakow, and Madison, before moving into an Ann Arbor, Michigan fixer-upper. She received an MA in Slavic Languages & Literatures and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, where she taught for several years. Laken was Writer-in-Residence at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2006. She currently teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


  • Imagine your own dream house. Describe it–what does it look like, where it is located, who lives there with you? What important things do you want to happen within those walls?
  • How would knowing a shocking secret about your house make you feel?
  • If you have restored an old house, what were the ups and downs of the project? Did you complete it? Do you have any advice for others who want to start work on a “fixer-upper”?

View the author’s suggested discussion questions.


What is the history of your own house and neighborhood? Begin your research in the library’s Topeka Room. Consult old city directories, view historic neighborhood photos and maps, check the vertical files (your house may already have its own folder!) and research Topeka newspapers from the 19th and 20th centuries. Share your house’s interesting history with others–add your research to the library’s files, write an article, present at a community gathering or post on social media. Join the Shawnee County Historical Society or the Topeka History Geeks group on Facebook.

The library can help make your house a home.  Read stories from our Around the House blog. Take a trip through our Home and Garden Neighborhood for tips on buying and selling, remodeling, decorating, landscaping and repair.

Further Reading

Also by Valerie Laken:

Separate Kingdoms is a collection of character-driven short stories set in Russia and the United States published in 2011.

NoveList Plus suggests these read-alikes for Dream House:

Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Deception by Denise Mina

And if you like Valerie Laken, you might also enjoy these authors:

Nigel Balchin
Gillian Flynn
Jody Shields
Natsuo Kirino
Lee Martin
Kelly Simmons
Karen Perry
Hans Werner Kettenbach
Patricia Highsmith


Have you or your book group read Dream House?  Would it make a good book for other discussion groups?  Share your thoughts by commenting on this post.