Housekeeping is told in the fist person narrative, by Ruth one of the sisters. The story is set in Finger bone, Idaho. The story evolves from the death of their Grandfather before the sisters Ruth and Lucille were born. He was an employee of the railway during his life.He had lost his life as the description tell the reader of a train derailled and sliding into the lake like a slippery eel. There were a lot of people aboard of which not many survived if any at all. Ruth tells of the railway home they were expected to stay in which was a dug out home with widows barely above ground level; she was not thankful for this demise.They would stay with their grandmother for a while until she died and then stayed with the sister in laws, lily and Nona,.Their mother had committed suicide and the father had left the family earlier than that. The entire story was speaking loudly of death and rebirth.
The author would speak in spiritual terms looking towards spirit in the form of aura and nimbus. As time is spent with the sister in laws they were not responding to the girls and simply left. Ruth and Lucille would then go and stay with their aunt Sylvie. It was here they were to be educated in a life of transience as an alternative to structured living. The sisters would begin to miss classes and lucille would steer towards fashion and nail polish following girls at school. Ruth saw Sylvie as a role model and consistently saw her ways. Finding her on park benches by a river. She would leave doors open. They found themselves camping by the river fishing for breakfast, they would use the river as a direction home.
The author is magical in using a poetic form to entice the reader into her world.