Monday, December 21, 2009

Home Repair

From its opening pages, Home Repair proves to be one of those novels that manage to walk successfully the fine line between tragedy and comedy.

It is the day of the family’s big garage sale and Eve is hoping to rid herself of the useless junk cluttering her house; if she can make a little extra money in the process, all the better. Noni, her nine-year-old daughter, commandeers the cash box and proves to be a ruthless negotiator, refusing to take less for anything than the price her mother has written on its price sticker. Marcus, Eve’s teen age son, comes outside only long enough to salvage a few of his favorite childhood items and carry them right back inside the house. Chuck, Eve’s husband, is simply not interested and decides to run an errand instead of hanging around to help Eve and Noni keep an eye on things.

All in all, Eve experiences a typical American garage sale, complete with the line-jumpers that arrive four hours early hoping to score the good stuff before the sale officially opens. She makes a little money, gets rid of a few things that had just been taking up space anyway and, by the end of the sale, is ready to give the rest away just not to have to carry anything back inside - nothing really unusual about her day. But then it hits her that her husband is not coming home and that he has chosen a silly garage sale to cover his exit, something she will have to explain to the kids and her mother.

Thus begins the rest of Eve’s life, maybe not the life she would have picked if given a choice, but one she will come to find that she is perfectly capable of handling. Her immediate reaction may have caused her to lose so much weight on the “heartbreak diet” that even her nine-year-old would grow worried about her, but Eve is about to discover just what an adventure the rest of her life will be. When several months later Chuck has the gall to show up unannounced for Thanksgiving dinner, he is shocked to find the table filled with people he never expected to see: a young Korean couple and their children, two of Eve’s co-workers, the big African-American caretaker of the local public park, and Eve’s mother. Though Chuck could not know it, the table is filled with some of the best friends Eve will ever have.

Frankly, Liz Rosenberg has surprised me. Home Repair is the kind of novel I generally pick up only reluctantly because of bad previous experiences with books that, at least on the surface, appear to be so largely geared toward a female readership. This, I am happy to report, is not one of those novels. Rosenberg made me care about Eve and her friends and what happened to them. I fell in love with the Marcus and Noni characters and the way they supported each other during their mother’s crisis. And I was cheered and inspired by the way Eve’s courage and hope are rewarded.

Liz Rosenberg says that one of Home Repair’s “ideal readers” is the “man awake reading at three thirty in the morning.” Strangely enough, I finished Home Repair just before four this morning myself (while not quite the insomniac Rosenberg envisions, I am pretty close), marking me as one of the book’s ideal readers -and one well satisfied with the experience.

Rated at: 4.0

(Review Copy provided by HarperCollins Publishers)

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