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Homegrown Books: Glass Houses and other stories

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Lesley Marshall recommends Glass Houses and other stories by Karen Phillips - The Cuba Press, 2020

Karen Phillips lives on a hill overlooking the sea near Ahipara (Northland) with her husband, olive trees, a bee hive and sometimes a black labrador dog.

She began writing in 2009 and won the Katherine Mansfield Novice award and the Heartland competitions that year. She published her first collection of stories, A Question of Blood, in 2017.


Like the polished glass on the beautiful cover, the stories in this collection have been buffed and crafted until they gleam like jewels. Multi-faceted, they each show a tiny image of a world and people we recognise and can empathise with. There’s the judgemental mother-in-law learning humility in her search for a relationship with her grandchild; the frantic mother, searching in her lunch hour “through the rubble of her emails” for a message from her OE son; the runaway wife, whose home is now a hostel, in a suburb where the ex once complained, driving through, “I feel I should have a bloody visa to be here.” Old age, infertility, blended families and coming to terms with loss – of people, of pleasures, and of choices. They’re all here, revealed through characters I came to care passionately about within just a few pages. I savoured all the stories, and although I particularly love the way so many of them showcase my home in New Zealand, I know their truths and power will resonate with readers anywhere. Highly recommended.

Glass Houses and other stories is available in paperback at local bookshops and from the Cuba Press online shop.

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