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Review: The Rooming House Diaries

  • Wed, January 08, 2020 9:27 AM
    Message # 8516866
    Lisa Lickel (Administrator)

    Title: The Rooming House Diaries - Life, Love & Secrets      

    Author: Bill Mathis

    Genre: Historical Fiction                    

    Length: 457 pages

    Published:  2019                    

    Publisher: Rogue  Phoenix  Press

    Reviewed by:  Jan Jenson (Janet Kay) 

    I leaned against a tree, lit a cigarette and stared at the gray, weather-worn, three story house, and for the first time in my life, I knew I was home. I was a son. I had a home.”  Manny

    After 25 years of drifting through life, living on the streets, and selling his body to other men, Manny finally found a home, and a family, at an aging Chicago rooming house built by Polish immigrants in 1887.

    Manny’s haunting and intriguing story is one of many immortalized within six diaries discovered in the hidden recesses of the old rooming house. Stories depicting the lives of the original owners, their families, and some of their long-term renters. Family secrets, some 150 years old, include an illegitimate son, prostitution, homosexuality, AIDS, racial bias and much more. Set against a backdrop of poverty, suffering, misunderstandings and changing societal attitudes, the author brings a diverse cast of colorful characters to life in a thought-provoking and insightful manner. He does include a number of graphic sex scenes, including the molestation of a 7-year-old girl, which some readers may find offensive.

    The author is a gifted story-teller with the ability to draw us into the lives of his characters, backwards and forward in time. Characters who are impacted and molded by the times they lived within and the people who became a part of their lives. He leaves us with a hopeful message that despite the ups and downs of life and the mistakes we all make, it is love and “family” (however we choose to define this concept) that can carry us through the difficult times and empower us to rise above the past.

    Reviewer Janet Kay is the author of three historical fiction/psychological suspense novels: WATERS OF THE DANCING SKY, AMELIA 1868, and THE SISTERS. Her upcoming novel, RAINY LAKE RENDEZVOUS, set on the wilderness islands of Rainy Lake on the Minnesota/Ontario international border, is the long-awaited sequel to WATERS and will be released the summer of 2020. The author lives and writes on a lake in the woods of Wascott, Wisconsin. Her passions in life include spending time with family, travel, photography – and creative writing. For more information, check out her website at

    Last modified: Sat, January 18, 2020 8:19 AM | Lisa Lickel (Administrator)

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