In This House



Grieco, Christina

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This thesis is a novel about an elderly woman named Rosie Burns who lives alone in her house in Rolling Hills Estates, California. After the death of her husband, Rosie finds comfort in relics from her past: an owl lamp and a 1970s shag carpet. Her house is a time capsule of the period in her life when her children and husband were home. She occasionally has delusions about her husband and she feels nostalgic for when she had the family together. When Rosie is diagnosed with dementia, her four distant children (Richard, Margot, Francis, and Judith) must come together to find their stubborn mother in-home care. Margot becomes the primary caretaker, since her siblings don’t want anything to do with Rosie’s care, even if they all love their mother in their own special way. It is a difficult burden for Margot, and her siblings continue to dump responsibility on her. Margot eventually finds an ad from a director named Linus looking for a place that could work as a 70’s-themed movie set—just like Rosie’s house. Margot calls back the director and brings in a film crew who unknowingly become unconventional caretakers for her mother. At first Rosie is resistant to the director but she soon feels happy to have company. The film mirrors her own life, and she delves into her memories as she watches the actors on “set” in her home. The story reaches its climax when, during a fit, Rosie throws the film crew out of her house and knocks her owl lamp onto her carpet, which starts a fire. It destroys the carpet and some of the film equipment. Rosie suffers from smoke inhalation and is taken to the hospital. She goes in and out of consciousness and delusions for two days, and the doctor tells Margot that her mother is dying. In a moment of clarity, Rosie begs her daughter to take her home because she does not want to die at the hospital. Margot finally stands up to her siblings and demands that they come to the house with her and their mother, since they barely bothered to visit Rosie in the hospital. They bring Rosie back to her somewhat charred home (not condemned, and deemed safe to enter) and put her into her bed. She sees her children in a way that echoes an earlier scene of Rosie’s memory of the children on Easter back in 1974. She dies with her family around her in her home, never having been forced out of it. The siblings go their separate ways. Margot is tasked with cleaning and selling the house. It ends with Margot leaving the house with this general idea: “As she stepped through the threshold of the doorway, she glanced back into the living room. Even though the couch was charred, the table distorted, and the owl lamp missing, it felt wrong not to see Momma sitting there. There was a weight—a disbelief—and a prick at the bridge of her nose as she felt tears begin to well up. At the same time, it felt similar to finishing a good book—one to which she’d grown profoundly attached—but feeling the need for it to end so she could be done with it.”


This thesis has been embargoed and will not be available until April 13, 2032 at the earliest.


Fiction, Dementia, Family relationships, Film production, Southern California