In There’s a House in the Land (Where a Band Can Take a Stand), Shaun Mullen revisits the 1970s, that armpit of a decade that gave us leisure suits, adjustable rate mortgages, and, ultimately, Ronald Reagan. He tells of his time living at a group home (no, not that kind of group home–a home in which a group of persons drawn together by coincidence and the need for a place to live resided) on a farm in southeastern Pennsylvania The names and places have been changed to protect the innocent, but the events come alive in this memoir.
The book opens with Shaun’s arrival at the farm and closes with his departure. Other than that, it is in no way chronological, but, rather, thematic, focusing on the persons who lived at and visited the farm and the events they shaped and which shaped them. Shaun brings them to life, drawing you into their lives in this episodic narrative.
Were you to try to outline the book in a “topic outline” (remember topic outlines?), it would appear to ramble. It winds from gardens to goats, from music to musings, from parties to pub crawls. The lack of chronology leads to a sense of timelessness, as if the farm were suspended, like Brigadoon, in its own time and place.
The memories, though, are not all happy and the people are not all nice. There is death and injury and sadness, as comes to all lives, all told matter-of-factly and humanely.
Despite its generally light-hearted tone, the book is tinged with darkness. It is peopled with Viet Nam veterans recovering from that pointless, stupid war; wounded souls fleeing broken homes or relationships, transients passing through looking for their own healing spot. Some of them find it; some don’t. All become real.