The Family That Carried Their House On Their Backs




In Downing’s debut novella, Young Miriam is born into a world where women carry houses stitched to their backs, while men carry keys with the power to unlock them. Miriam’s nomadic family moves from clearing to clearing within a dark wood, but no matter how deep into the forest they travel, the haunted calls of Wild Things follow. As precious family heirlooms disappear and Father roams through the woods later and later into the night, Mother starts to lose her memory and Miriam begins to understand that her family might not be as human as it appears.

THE FAMILY THAT CARRIED THEIR HOUSE ON THEIR BACKS is a modern fairytale that interrogates the trauma embodied by mothers, inherited by daughters, and patterned in our walls, chests, and feet.


Praise for The Family that Carried Their House on Their Backs:

The Family that Carried Their House on Their Backs is a magical story and a family story; its magic evolves from its unfaltering attention to how family—as captivity, as inheritance—can feel. Downing rediscovers the pure facts of family love and pain and wildness in the spare, strange folklore through which her family sets out. A wise and stunning novella of intense tenderness about the permeance that dwells inside our transience and the wilderness that lives within our homes.

Mark Mayer, Author of the The Aerialists

In this beguiling family romance, a daughter asks her father, "How do you know what you're looking at in the mirror?" Her question haunts this darkly beautiful fairy tale of a migrant family moving from place to place in an endless wood, told with cheekiness and wit, with a surprise hiding in every exchange between child and parent, human and Wild Thing, house and home. Luxurious and raw, attuned to the wounds in nature that are also wounds in us, Sammie Downing's debut displays an uncanny power, like the family at its center, "to wring music from your bones."

Josh Corey, Author of Beautiful Elegy, Hannah and the Master and The Barons

This is one of my favorite pieces ever written. It’s as tender as a bruise. It’s light and murky and beautiful as nighttime mist descending on a forest. It’s whimsical yet slightly acrid. It is courageous and raw and unsentimental. A heartbreaking portrait of sisters and mothers. This story seriously brings me to my knees.

Kaisa Cummings, Author of Home Remedies

Mother restarts her memory. Father balances precariously between two worlds. Meanwhile, sisters Miriam and Essie struggle with their parents’ sometimes devastating imperfections and what it means to grow up, grow apart, and grow together. In these ghostly bites of prose, Sammie Downing gives us glimpses through windowpanes to the unsettling world of Houses and Hollows, Wild Things and severed keys, and sisters mirrored.

Emily Cappettini, Author of Thistle