Home Repair, by Liz Rosenberg.
Her husband had walked out on them in the middle of a garage sale, in the middle of a rare blue Binghamton summer's day. She knew as surely as if he had bent over her, lanky as he was, and whispered it into her ear, his blond hair brushing her skin. He was simply -- gone. - from Home Repair, page 13 -
Eve has already lost one husband -- her beloved Ivan who went out to get her chocolate ice cream and ended up dying in a car crash. So when her second husband, the handsome free-spirit Chuck, drives away from their upstate New York home on fine summer day (in the middle of a garage sale), Eve instinctively knows he has left her and her children. Eve gathers up the remnants of her yard sale and digs deep to find the courage to move forward. Her teenage son from her first marriage (Marcus), and her precocious nine year old daughter from her union with Chuck (Nona), along with Eve's fiesty, sharp-tongued mother Charlotte (who moves from Tennessee to be close to her abandoned daughter) motivate Eve to keep going despite her broken heart.
Home Repair is the story of what it means to experience love and loss, and yet still find fulfillment in the small things that life offers. Liz Rosenberg's prose reminds me a lot of Anne Tyler -- the quirky, lovable characters and matter of fact narrative of ordinary life peppered with all the sadness and laughter that comes with it, ring true. Eve's journey is not a straight line -- she takes one step forward and three steps back -- but her persistence and sincerity, her love for her children, and her hope for romantic love again, all work to her advantage. Despite all of Eve's setbacks, she is able to find the beauty that still exists in her life.
The two dogs groaned, leapt heavily off the sofa and came to stand behind her. It was beauty that dragged you back into the world. The pine trees dripping with snow, branches curved downward like wings; or that deep electric blue that the TV shimmered between stations, so vibrant a blue it aspired to something beyond color. It was all the same message she could not decode -- the fairy-tale gold of the Christmas lights across the street, the rainbow on the back of her hand. A maple tree holding onto a few last spiky leaves. The dark macadam of the street shone like iron. - from Home Repair, page 184 -
Rosenberg's strength is in the development of her characters -- my favorite of whom was Charlotte, an aging woman whose crusty exterior belies a loving heart. Rosenberg captures the bittersweet process of aging, as well as the connections between grandparents and children, and the ambivalence between mothers and daughters.
Charlotte Dunrea, the meticulous, the upright, was beginning to drip gravy down her front, to spill coffee in her lap. The seat of her slacks sagged. She complained that it was harder to do everything -- to get in and out of the car with Marcus. You could see what an effort it was, getting up out of the kitchen chair after dinner, clinging to the table for support. She might need a walker soon. She was slowing down. It seemed to Eve as if her stubborn little mother was now a permanent fixture in their lives, and the only way she'd ever leave was for her to be carried out, feet first. - from Home Repair, page 48 -
I enjoyed this lovely book. My only complaint was a minor one -- that Rosenberg makes a small error re: medical information (being a Physical Therapist, I am probably more tuned into the nuances around medical procedures than the average reader). But, aside from that, the pages of this book turned effortlessly. I began to feel like the characters in the book were old friends, and I regretted saying good-bye to them. I hope Rosenberg is working on her next novel because I look forward to reading more from this talented debut author.
Home Repair is a mixture of happy and sad, laughter and tears -- it reflects the real stuff of our ordinary lives. Readers who choose to go along on Eve's journey from joy to loss and back to happiness will find it a satisfying trip.
Four stars out of five.
Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".
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