By John E. Kramer
You may think you know all the intrigue and drama of Susette Kelo’s story.
But be prepared to be outraged anew with the release of Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage (Grand Central Publishing, January 26, 2009, $26.99), a first-rate nonfiction drama told by award-winning author Jeff Benedict. Benedict’s work takes readers behind the scenes—showcasing Kelo’s fight to save her home and New London Development Corporation President Claire Gaudiani’s effort to take it away. Little Pink House will rightfully transform Kelo from a hero in the fight for property rights into a popular legend in the national consciousness alongside Norma Rae and Erin Brockovich—only this heroine’s fight calls for limited government.
In Little Pink House, Susette Kelo speaks for the first time about all the details of this inspirational true story, as one woman found a host of friends and champions to help her take on big government and corporate America to save her home.
Susette Kelo was simply trying to rebuild her life when she purchased a falling-down Victorian house perched on the waterfront in New London, Conn. The house was not particularly fancy, but with lots of hard work Susette turned it into a home that was important to her, a home that represented her newfound independence.
Little did she know that the city of New London wanted to raze her home and the homes of her neighbors to complement a new Pfizer pharmaceutical facility. Kelo and six neighbors refused to sell, so the city exercised its power of eminent domain to condemn their homes, launching one of the most extraordinary legal cases of our time, a case that ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court and was litigated by the Institute for Justice. Kirkus Review wrote about Little Pink House, “The author brings his highly technical subject to life through the passion of his central characters: two women who scarcely met but spent years locked in conflict. Goliath was Claire Gaudiani, the sexy, charismatic and manipulative president of Connecticut College who also headed the New London Development Corporation. . . . The David in this unfair fight was divorced nurse Susette Kelo, owner of the eponymous Little Pink House. After personally renovating her tumbledown historic home, she was deaf to all offers and threats, telling one reporter, ‘They can have my house when they take the keys out of my cold, dead hands.’”
Publishers Weekly wrote in a starred review, “Benedict has taken a complicated court case centered on eminent domain and turned it into a page-turner with a conscience . . . . Raising important questions about the use of economic development as a justification for displacing citizens, this book will leave readers indignant and inspired.”
Although it is still a long way from a done deal, there is great interest in turning Little Pink House into a film, and Benedict has retained one of Hollywood’s top script agents to represent his work. Now the only questions that remain are: Who will play Susette along with IJ’s Scott Bullock, Dana Berliner and Chip Mellor?
John E. Kramer is IJ’s vice president for communications.