Summary: The histories of eight historic houses in Eastern Massachusetts.
My Thoughts: The beauty of this template is that it can be used in any county in any state in America, and even in regions around the world. The author has profiled the life histories of eight historic homes. She's spread them out from the North Shore of Boston to Concord to New Bedford to Cape Cod, and stretched them from the early 1600s to the year 2000.
Working in the historic preservation field, I can see why she chose what she did, but can also see the breadth of what she left out. There are so many more historic houses being kept alive by preservation groups of all kind in the region that this is a mere sampling of what is out there to explore. That said, she chose the obscure - like the Fairbanks home in Dedham - and the famed, like the homes of John and John Quincy Adams, the Alcotts, Mary Baker Eddy and Edward Gorey. The obscure is where most of our history lies, in historic structures in which everyday people lived everyday lives. But a little bit of celebrity certainly helps tell a tale.
I found the biographical sketches of several of the characters - Bronson Alcott, Eddy and Gorey, in particular - to be fascinating. Ultimately, the book is about the homes, but they are what they are, from construction to decoration, because of the people who lived in them. Kicking off the book with the Fairbanks house and its grisly murder story was a great idea.
The author begs us to break the 60-mile rule. We tend to live in bubbles, seeing anything local as mundane. But as soon as somebody from the outside arrives, or we travel 60 miles distant, we find experts and new adventures. We need to look right in our own backyards. This book encourages us to explore our home regions, to come face-to-face with our local history. I've visited every town in this book; I've never visited any of the homes. I've got some work to do.
Find your local book, and explore your local world.