Other People’s Houses

Author: Kelli Hawkins

Publisher/Year: Harper Collins/2021

Publisher description

The perfect house. The perfect family. Too good to be true.

Kate Webb still grieves over the loss of her young son. Ten years on, she spends her weekends hungover, attending open houses on Sydney’s wealthy north shore and imagining the lives of the people who live there.

Then Kate visits the Harding house – the perfect house with, it seems, the perfect family. A photograph captures a kind-looking man, a beautiful woman she knew at university, and a boy – a boy that for one heartbreaking moment she believes is her own son.

When her curiosity turns to obsession, she uncovers the cracks that lie beneath a glossy facade of perfection, sordid truths she could never have imagined.

But is it her imagination? As events start to spiral dangerously out of control, could the real threat come from Kate herself?

Reviewer: Moraig Kisler

When Kate Webb’s not recovering from the previous night’s surfeit of vodka, she’s stuffing herself with junk food before passing out amidst a clutter of empty bottles and takeaway containers. Kate avoids her increasingly concerned family, retreating into bottomless grief for her young deceased son.

In Other People’s Houses, Kelli Hawkins has created a flawed and lonely character with the flavour of The Girl on the Train. At first I wasn’t sure if I would warm to Kate, but as her story unfolds, my sympathy grew for a woman paralysed by grief. She leads a shadow life, attending open houses and dreaming of perfect families in perfect houses. She wanders from room to room, collecting tokens from unsuspecting residents and which token collection is one of her guilty secrets.

At one open house, Kate finds a photograph of an old school acquaintance and her family: the perfect family with a perfect son who reminds Kate of her own son. Kate begins to research the family, following them on Facebook. But her little quirks soon turn to obsession. With good intentions she inserts herself into the family’s lives, but those intentions soon escalate to hiding in bushes, stalking and more.

Kate Webb’s journey is heartbreaking and gripping while seasoned with a pinch of romance. There is little further that can be revealed without spoiling the plot and the surprise ending makes Other People’s Houses a terrific read.