How does one respond when one loses almost everything as a child?

Danny was an infant, and Maeve was five when their mother, Elna, left. Their father, Cyril, fired their nanny when she accidentally hit Danny with a spoon. When Cyril died intestate years later, his second wife Andrea claimed their home - a suburban Philadelphia Mansion known as "The Dutch House" - and drove away her two stepchildren.

Ann Patchett's 2019 novel "The Dutch House" tells their story, as narrated by Danny.

Maeve was diabetic, but she was an adult and strong enough to raise Danny, protecting her younger brother. The two became inseparable throughout their lives - spiritually, if not always physically. Stripped of their home, their only inheritance was an educational trust fund to be shared by Danny and Andrea's two children. Danny and Maeve sought revenge by spending all the trust on Danny's education. He enrolled in the most expensive prep school, college, and medical school despite having no intention of ever practicing medicine.

Although it exists in the background, The Dutch House remains a significant character in this story. The house looms in their memory, representing everything the children lost. For years, Danny and Maeve drive out of their way to see and sit in front of their childhood home.

Patchett brings us into Danny's head but also allows us a peek into the lives of Maeve, Celeste, Andrea, and Elna. Elna ran from her family to serve the poor because she could not accept her husband's sudden wealth and his desire to live in an opulent mansion. The selfishness of abandoning her children is balanced by her desire to help the underprivileged.

"The Dutch House" is a modern fairy tale, complete with a wicked stepmother. Like many fairy tales, there are logical gaps (Why did a savvy businessman like Cyril never draw up a will?), but the character development more than makes up for these flaws.

The story is about loss and guilt and forgiveness. But it is mostly about letting go of the past.