Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg

home-repairTitle:  Home Repair

Author:  Liz Rosenberg

Paperback:  352 pages

ISBN:  9780061734564

Challenges:  ARC Challenge

But it was more than facing the clutter and the mess, this grip of cold gloom that surrounded her.  She had never been prone to depression, not even after Ivan died, but what she suffered now felt like a disease of the soul.  She wandered aimlessly around the house.  The flowers in their clay pots out on the front porch were long dead and withered.  A few brown leaves stuck out from the stems.  She seemed to be staring at the demise of everything.  Everything she’d already lost, all the losses still to come.  It all headed toward grief in the end.  Humans were soap bubbles, clinging to any solid surface.  They rested briefly, then were gone.  Her mother would be gone soon, and not long after, it would be herself, and one day even her own children…

A chill stabbed her heart.  Why on earth bother?  Why clean, take out the trash, make the beds.  Why not let it all alone to rot?

Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg, pages 183-184 (ARE)

I’d first like to thank Jennifer, aka Book Club Girl, for the opportunity to read Home Repair and participate in a discussion with Liz Rosenberg, the book’s author.  You can listen to her July 8th broadcast on Blog Talk Radio with the author by clicking here.  It was my first time participating in a live discussion with an author, and was an interesting experience.  It would definitely be more interesting to have the author’s voice at a book club discussion more often.

One of the things that sticks out most for me with Home Repair is that it truly has a feeling of authenticity.  Often in books, when the tragic or fantastic occurs, it feels contrived or manufactured, a vehicle for the author to get the characters from one point to another, or to teach a lesson.  However, with this book, the events feel natural.  When Eve and her seventeen-year-old son, Marcus, get into a fight about him going for a ride in his friend’s new sports car, it had a very familiar feeling to me, a mother of two teens of my own.  The events that followed the argument also felt familiar and made me think back to something that had happened within my own family.  Another aspect of Home Repair that I kept thinking of while reading it was that the characters were very real to me.  At times I could see my own mother in Charlotte, Eve’s mom, with Eve playing my part, at other times Mrs. Dunrea could’ve been me.  Also, Rosenberg has set Home Repair in her home town of Bignhamton, New York, adding even more realism to the book.

Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg begins on a bright, sunny and unseasonably mild day as Eve holds a garage sale to clear out some of the clutter in her family of four’s life.  As the day progresses, she becomes aware that her husband, Chuck, has taken the opportunity to clear out for good.  Eve is left with the task of explaining to her two children, Marcus and Noni, that he’s left them, and to somehow manage to dig down within herself and soldier on.  The book takes us on a year journey as Eve rediscovers who she is, develops friendships and connections with new and different people, and deepens her relationships with those she already knows.  When her mother moves up from Tennessee to “help,” Eve is faced with her mother’s own eventual mortality and humanness, as she struggles in the in-between land of mother caring for her own children while being a child caring for her mother.  Home Repair is the story of healing, family and friendship that will stay with you and gives hope that “This too shall pass.”

“Why does anyone get married?  Why do middle-aged men leave their wives, or women abandon their families and run off to Tahiti?  Why does anyone bother to become friends with anyone, or adopt a child, or own a pet, for that matter?  We’re all going to die sooner or later, if that’s what you’re thinking,”  Charlotte said.  “That’s life.  Nothing we do can change that.  We’re all going to someday say good-bye.  We’re all going to have to cry, little girl,” she said, putting one hand out to touch Eve’s hair.  The touch did not quite happen, but hovered, and then settled back down, like a butterfly, still quivering.  “We might as well be happy while we can.”

Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg, page 324 (ARE)

Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg is a comfort, homey read that reminds us that we’re not alone and gives us hope.  It tells us that we’re stronger than we think and love is the best home repair.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Gargoyle cover art

Title: The Gargoyle
Author: Andrew Davindson
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385524940
Release Date: 08/05/08

My rating: 5 stars, two thumbs way up, and all my toes wigglin’!

 

…Christmas Day had shown me that Marianne Engel’s love was not feeble.  It was strapping, it was muscular, it was massive.  I thought that it could fill only my room in the burn ward, but it filled the entire hospital.  More important, her love was not reserved only for me; it was shared generously with strangers…

Andrew Davidson’s first novel, The Gargoyle, is incredibly haunting and beautiful tale of a love that has lasted 700 years.  It is unfathomable that this is the author’s first book, because Davidson writes with such depth, detail, and flow many writers take years to accomplish.

Summary:

The Gargoyle is the story about a man whose life has been complete crap: His father split before he was born, his mother died giving birth to him, his grandma died pushing him in a playground swing, and at 6 years old he goes to live with his doped-out, only remaining relatives, the Graces.  When their trailer blows up with them in it cooking their meth, The Man is suddenly alone in the world, spending the rest of his “childhood” in a group home called “Second Chance House”.  The Man questions, however when he’d had his first chance. 

After aging out of the system, he sets about making a living doing the only thing he is skilled at, sex, and becomes a coked out, heroin shooting,  porn star.  But a near fatal car accident brings and end to all that.  So at 37, he is bankrupt, and without any possessions as the creditors took and sold it all.  He is covered on much of his body with burns that render him a bit of a monstrosity with assorted apendages having been amputated -including the one most important to a man.  It is at this point he decides he will commit suicide. 

THEN, into the burn ward walks Marianne Engel, who has known and loved him since she first met him almost 700 years ago.  She is quickly whisked back to the psych ward from which she has wandered, but something about her sticks.  When The Man is released from the hospital, Marianne takes him into her home and nurses him back to health, regaling him with the tale of their first life together, along with the lives of a few other fateful lovers: the Japanese maiden and her love, a Viking apprentice in love with his manly teacher, an Italian ironworker and his plague-victim wife, and society victorian lady and her farmer husband.

The unanswered question throughout the book is: Is Marianne schizophrenic (or some other mental illness), or is she telling the truth, that she has lived 700 years?  It is a mystical, epic tale, with the questions of the existence of God, Hell, and real love are left for the reader to decide.

How this book affected me:

The Gargoyle has all the angst and emotions of a Gothic love story, with the quest for spiritual understanding of Mystic writings, and the in-your-face reality and carnage of our modern life.  It draws you in, sings to you, challenges you, then ends justly, in the only way it can.  Magical, mystical, beautiful, horrific, heartbreaking, hopeful -all are descriptions of The Gargoyle.

There are humorous events, one particular one made me think of my dad.  My father had diabetes and had occasions to go into the hospital.  He also had cancer the last two years of his life, granting him many more chances to experience the wonders of hospital life.  In one passage where the narrator describes a test of his tactile senses, the man’s response reminded me so much of my dad:

Next, to guage sensation in various parts of my body, she jabbed at me with a goddamn stick and asked how it felt.  I told her it felt like she was jabbing me with a goddamn stick.  Oh, how she laughed; what a fine comedian I was.

There are so many things that I loved about this book, I could write a book about it.  The possibility of reincarnated loves finding one another in the next life.  The stories Marianne tells to prove to the man that everlasting and unconditional love exists and is possible.  The concept of Hell building off Dante’s, yet completely tailored specofic for The Man.

One of the biggest curiousities for me, besides the obvious ones, is:  Why does Davidson never name his main character?  That may be the hardest question of all to answer.