The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone by Audrey Burges

This captivating novel of miniature furniture and big themes braids strong friendships, romance, family ties and the importance of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone.

Audrey Burges’s The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone charmingly combines threads of magic, whimsy, romance, grief and loss in a debut novel of great feeling.

Readers first meets 30-something Myra in 2015 in the Arizona mountains, where she lives in the attic of her late grandfather’s cabin. She is regularly visited by her best friend Gwen, who forms Myra’s main link with the outside world–along with the website by which hundreds of thousands of followers know the Mansion, Myra’s life’s work and greatest love. She inherited the large, highly detailed, finely wrought miniature (don’t call it a dollhouse!) from her beloved step-grandmother, Trixie, who, along with Grampa Lou, taught her sewing, woodworking, painting and sculpting. “I know what gemstones look like water and what pen can draw the most convincing chain stitch on a washcloth that’s too small to sew. I can be eclectic or traditional, modern or romantic, and the Mansion absorbs those dreams into its walls.” In flashbacks, the novel also reveals a very young Myra in her loving relationship with Trixie, until the older woman’s tragic death on Myra’s fifth birthday. Other chapters introduce a woman returning to her stately home in Virginia in the 1930s. And in 2015 Virginia, a young man named Alex discovers Myra’s website, “The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone,” and the miniature Mansion itself, which is, shockingly, a perfect match to the riverside family estate where he lives alone.

Interspersed with chapters alternating between Arizona and Virginia are short essays that Myra posts on her blog: “I’ll set out with the simplest plans, a minor tweak, and wind up with a choice between full-scale renovations and a shift of perspective. An attitude adjustment or a gut job.” These many threads form a rich portrait of several easy-to-like characters.

Myra still grieves the loss of her Grandpa Lou and especially Trixie, whose skills in making miniatures she honors in continuing to curate the Mansion, painstakingly redecorating room by room. She is a recluse, but the Mansion’s website offers a rare and rich connection to the outside world; her followers view the Mansion as both escape and refuge. Then Myra is threatened with eviction, and her carefully guarded small world tilts. Things begin moving around in Alex’s home and in Myra’s miniature version–piano music emanating from a room without a piano; things that go bump in the night. The keepers of both houses must reassess their relationships to their homes and to the larger world, and it may take more than Gwen’s prodigious business savvy to save the Mansion.

Burges carefully constructs her plot with as much quirkiness and love as any of Myra’s miniatures. With sympathetic characters, high stakes and winning miniature chifforobes, The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone is dreamy, sweet and satisfying.


This review originally ran in the November 29, 2022 issue of Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade. To subscribe, click here.


Rating: 8 hairpin legs.

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