The pleasure in reading a book like Cleaning Nabokov’s House is to enjoy vicariously the survival and ultimate triumph of an average (well, maybe not so average) person.
Barb Barrett is a wife and mother in a small town who loses what she loves most (her father, cousin and children) in relatively quick succession. When she is at her lowest point, she is unemployed and more or less homeless – living out of her car and reduced to watching her children from afar. She lost custody because the judge, lawyers, and social workers in the small, upstate New York town is allied with her husband, a hometown boy. A meal may consist of boiled lettuce; she has one pair of good pants.
Her luck begins to change when she buys a house formerly occupied by Vladimir Nabokov. She finds a manuscript presumably written by the author of Lolita. The reader picks up bits about Nabokov’s life and works and, I, at least, wanted to read more of his actual novels.
Leslie Daniels, in her first novel, creates a character who is endearingly quirky and self-reliant. We root for her success and hope for her former husband’s (the ex-person’s) downfall.