Cleaning Nabokov's House

A Novel

Cleaning Nabokov's House

Now in paperback, the stunning debut about a woman rediscovering herself after a divorce explores the heartbreaking and deeply funny aspects of the mess called love. With glowing reviews from the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, NPR’s All Things Considered, and more.

When Barb Barrett walks out on her loveless marriage, she doesn’t realize she will lose everything: her home, her financial security, even her beloved children. Approaching forty with her life in shambles and no family or friends to turn to, Barb must now discover what it means to rely on herself in a stark new emotional landscape.

With only a questionable business plan in hand, Barb is determined to reinvent herself. She moves into a house once occupied by the literary genius Vladimir Nabokov, author of the notorious Lolita. She discovers what could be Nabokov’s last unpublished manuscript and from there begins a personal journey that is deliciously romantic, darkly comic, and wise.

Written in elegant prose and illuminated by sharp humor and wit, Cleaning Nabokov’s House offers a new vision of modern love and a reminder that it is never too late to find loyalty to our truest selves.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439195031 | 
  • March 2012
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Cleaning Nabokov's House includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Leslie Daniels. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


The last straw was the dishwasher. After a decade of marriage, Barbara walks out on her husband, John, while he instructs her on the proper method of loading cups and bowls. A newcomer to John’s sleepy hometown in upstate New York, and now a divorcée, Barb feels out of place. John takes custody of their children (the judge is his friend), and Barb gets just one weekend a month of visitation (the social worker is John’s new girlfriend). Lonely, depressed, and down to her last pair of pants, Barb spends her last bit of savings on a new house—a house where Vladimir Nabokov once lived and wrote. When Barb discovers an abandoned manuscript in the house, her life takes on new purpose. Opening a “cathouse” that serves passion-starved local women is Barb’s remarkable first step to respectability. Client by client and word by word, Barb reclaims her life and prepares for the chance to win back the custody of her children.

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About the Author

Leslie Daniels
Photograph by Joyce George

Leslie Daniels

Leslie Daniels has published short fiction and essays in Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, New Ohio Review, among others and has been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize, for Best American Essays, and for the Best of the Associated Writing Programs. She is the former fiction editor of Green Mountains Review, and has worked in publishing for two decades. Her website is