Tracy Kidder is an award-winning nonfiction writer who earned critical acclaim for Mountains Beyond Mountains (2003), which tells the story of physician Paul Farmer, who travelled around the world for his practice.
In House (published in 1985), Kidder describes a couple having their first house built on the outskirts of Amherst, Massachusetts. The homebuilders are Judith and Jonathan Souweine. They are an upper-middle class couple whose major challenges are meeting the architectural team half-way with respect to cost and (occasionally) decorating. The novel traces the communication patterns between the couple and the contractors, examining the points of tension that so often attend what is often the most formidable undertaking that individuals encounter: building a home.
In addition to the builders themselves, the characters include the architects, contractors, and builders. The builders are Jim Locke, Richard Gougeon, Alex Ghiselin and Ned Krutsky, who often butt heads. Judith remarks that Jim Locke says, that, based on his comportment, he "made a conscious decision not to be a white-collar professional," (4). Richard, more self-effacing, states, "any of us aren't super craftsmen. There are a lot better craftsmen around. I'm a carpenter. Nothing special," (30). The group of carpenters belong to Apple Corps, a successful business who has been "kept busy"doing mostly renovation work, which makes the Souweine's house both exciting and challenging.
Because of these struggles, the house's completion represents a series of compromises, and so a greater accomplishment.