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A House is not a Home Summary in English by Zan Gaudioso
A House is not a Home by Zan Gaudioso About the Author
Zan Gaudioso is an author based in California. She has contributed stories to and edited the famous Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. These books consist of short stories that seek to comfort and inspire readers. Among these, her most notable contributions have been for the book, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul III. Zan has also co-writered The Buddha Next Door: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories.
A House is not a Home Summary in English
This story relates the experiences of the writer after she joins a new high school. All her friends have gone to a different school and she feels very isolated among the new students and teachers. She often visits the teachers in her old school and they encourage her to participate in the activities at her new school. They assure her that in time she will grow to love her new school.
On a Sunday afternoon soon after, the writer is seated on the dining table, doing her homework. As it is a cold and windy day, there is a fire going in the fireplace. The writer’s red tabby cat is lying on top of her school papers. The reader is informed that the writer had rescued the cat when it was a kitten and since then they have had a close relationship. Suddenly, the writer smells something strange: she looks up to the ceiling sees that smoke is pouring in through its seams. It fills the room quickly and they run out of the house to find that the fire has engulfed the roof. While the writer runs to the neighbour’s house to call the fire department, her mother runs back into the house.
The writer’s mother returns with a metal box that has important documents and then runs back in. The writer knows she has gone to collect pictures of her father who had passed away when she was young. She knows that the pictures are all that her mother has left of him. The writer tries to run into the house after her mother but is restrained by a fireman—by this time, the street is full of fire trucks. She tells him that her mother is in the house and he assures her that the other firemen have gone into the house to rescue her. He wraps her in a blanket and makes her sit in a car.
Soon enough, a fireman emerges with the writer’s mother. The writer is relieved and runs to her mother and hugs her. She feels that the happiness of that moment has washed over all the times she had argued with her mother and hated her.
It takes five hours to douse the fire and the house appears almost completely destroyed. At this time, the writer remembers her cat and realises that it is nowhere to be found. She becomes overwhelmed by the feeling of loss: of her old school, her friends, her old teachers, her home and now, her cat. Although she does not want to leave without knowing what happened to her cat, the firemen announce that it is not safe to go into the house. Thus, with just the clothes they are wearing and the blankets given by the firemen, the writer and her mother make their way to her grandparents’ house to spend the night.
The next day, the writer’s mother forces her to go to school. The writer does not want to go because she is very embarrassed: she is still wearing the dress she wore the day before and has had to borrow tennis shoes from her aunt. She has lost her books, her homework and her backpack in the fire. She feels very self-conscious because she knows that instead of blending in, this incident will cause her to stick out like a sore thumb. At school, she feels lost and completely out of place.
She goes to her old house after school and is pained to see that only the pictures and documents rescued by her mother have survived the fire. Once again she longs for her cat. However, there is no time for grief, as they need to find a new house and buy new clothes for school. Eventually, they rent an apartment near their old house. The writer visits her old house in the hope of finding her cat. She misses her cat terribly and remembers the time they had spent together.
The writer realises that everyone in her school has come to know of the fire. She feels embarrassed by the attention people give her. The next day, people gather around the writer and ask her to hurry up and head to gym class. She finds this strange but upon reaching the gym, she sees that a table has been set up and piled with school supplies, notebooks and clothes—all of it is for her. Strangers introduce themselves to her and even invite her to their homes. This heartfelt gesture touches her heart and she finally feels hopeful about her situation. At last, she makes new friends.
A month later, the writer is at the site of her old house with two of her new friends, watching her house being rebuilt. She realises that because of the fire incident, she was able to break through her insecurities and embrace the wonderful things and people around her. She realises that just like the house, her life too is being rebuilt.
At that moment, a woman comes to the writer, holding her lost cat. The writer jumps up with joy and takes the cat into her arms. She learns that her cat had been so scared by the fire that she ran over a mile away. Although the cat’s collar had the owner’s phone number on it, the phone had been destroyed in the fire. This kind woman took the cat in and also made the effort to locate its original owners.
When the writer sits with her friends and reflects on everything that has happened, she realises that the feelings of loss and tragedy that she had been struggling with have begun to diminish. Instead, she feels an immense sense of gratitude for all the blessings she has received: her life, her new friends, a stranger’s kindness and the purr of her cat. She feels that just like her cat, she has also found her way back.
A House is not a Home Title
The title of the chapter talks about the difference between a house and a home. A house is a physical structure. A home is a shelter, a place where people live together sharing their ups and downs, supporting each other and spreading love and cheer. Therefore, a home is much more than a house made of brick and mortar.
A House is not a Home Setting
The story is set in a small town in America, where the writer lived with her mother.
A House is not a Home Theme
The story traces the problems that one faces when an older way of living comes crashing down, forcing one to rebuild life from scratch. It examines how a seemingly tough situation can be turned into an advantageous one, with the right attitude.
A House is not a Home Message
The story highlights the importance of keeping an open mind and not being depressed by the problems and challenges that are an important part of life. It reiterates that every dark cloud has a silver lining.
A House is not a Home Characters
The writer: The writer appears to be a teenager, who has just graduated from junior high. In the beginning of the story, she appears to have been a normal teenager, who was rude to her mother and sometimes even hated her. She also appears to be emotional and finds it difficult to handle the shift to high school, away from the environment and people that she was used to. All her friends had gone to different high schools, and she felt very isolated and alone. She is very close to her pet cat, whom she had rescued as a kitten.
After the fire, she is initially very lost and sad, as she and her mother had just lost all their possessions and didn’t even have any clothes or a place to stay. She is very shaken and insecure. However, she soon matures and grows closer to her mother. The shock of almost losing her mother in the fire makes her realise how much she loves her and she stops taking her for granted. The kindness of her new classmates and teachers, who donate all kinds of necessities to help her overcome her losses from the fire, touches her and makes her feel accepted and secure. She becomes less judgmental and more accommodating of the changes that take place in her life.
The mother: Her character emerges not through direct descriptions, but through her actions during the course of the story. She is very caring, responsible, and brave, bringing up her daughter as a single parent after her husband died several years ago. She faces each challenge and problem that arises without complaining. She never gives up, but always tries to find a solution to the problem. She is very concerned about her daughter, and even borrows clothes so that she can go to school the next day. She rebuilds her home from the debris.
Even though her cards and identification papers are burnt, she does not hesitate to borrow money from her parents to make sure she can create a normal living situation for her daughter as quickly as possible. She is a caring and sensitive person, who loved her husband dearly even after he died. This is clear from the way she ran into the burning house to rescue his letters and pictures. She seems to have been a very remarkable woman who did not let life’s challenges knock her down.
A House is not a Home Summary Questions and Answers
Why did the writer feel awkward during her first year of high school?
She felt awkward because it was a new school, much bigger than her previous junior high school. It was strange starting as a freshman after enjoying the benefits of being the senior-most class in junior high. She also felt isolated as all her close friends had gone to different high schools and she did not know anyone there.
Why did she continue to visit her old school?
She missed her teachers so much that she continued to visit them at her old school. Moreover, it was a familiar place where she had spent many happy years. She felt isolated in her new school without her friends.
What advice did her junior high teachers give her?
They encouraged her to get involved with activities in her new school so that she could meet new people. They were confident that she would adjust in time and start loving the new school as well.
What was the psychology behind the teachers’ advice?
The teachers wanted her to adjust to her new environment and not keep thinking about the past. It was time for her to move on and face the reality of her situation.
How do we know that her cat was very playful?
We know this from the fact that she would swat at the writer’s pen from time to time in a playful maimer while she tried to complete her homework.
Why was the cat so attached to the writer?
The writer had saved the cat when it had been a kitten and somehow it knew that the writer was responsible for the good life that it was presently enjoying.
What happened one Sunday afternoon?
The writer’s house caught fire one Sunday, and it burnt down completely.
Why did the writer’s mother run back into the burning house?
The writer’s father had died when she had been very young. Her mother ran back into the burning house to try to save her husband’s pictures and letters, which were all she had to remember him by.
Why was the writer held back by the fireman?
She was held back by the fireman to stop her from following her mother into the burning house, as she could have lost her life.
How was the writer’s mother rescued from the burning house?
The fire-fighters ran into the house and rescued the writer’s mother. She was given an oxygen mask to help her breathe normally again.