Janice Williams's Reviews > Building a Home with My Husband: A Journey Through the Renovation of Love

Building a Home with My Husband by Rachel Simon
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's review
Aug 04, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: memoir, women-sharing-their-experiences
Read in May, 2012

I had first read "Building a Home with My Husband: A Journey through the Renovation of Love" when it was published in hardcover under that title. It was released in paperback under the title "The House on Teacher's Lane."

Recently, I had a long drive ahead of me, and settled in to listen to the audiobook version of "Building a Home with My Husband." I had listened to Simon's "Riding the Bus with My Sister" on the drive to Philadelphia and absolutely loved it (also having read the book years earlier). Simon narrated "Riding the Bus..." and I found her voice, pacing, inflection just perfect to narrate her story. The drive flew by listening to her experiences with her sister Beth and, having an adult son with disabilities, I could relate to so much in "Riding the Bus with My Sister."

Having already read "Building a Home with My Husband", I knew what it was about and had enjoyed the story when I read it, particularly because at the time I read it I was thinking a lot about marriage and home-making and the nature of relationships between people who love each other, especially if those people are creative types.

As I listened to the audiobook version of "Building a Home with My Husband/The House on Teacher's Lane" I was again struck by Simon's honest, open-hearted style of writing...how she builds a story, weaving the very personal events of her life, but in a way that never sounds self-absorbed or egocentric. Simon tells of her personal experiences as if to say "Have you felt like this? Have you experienced this? I have too. Here's what happened and where it led...Here is what I was able to make of it."

There are several themes within this book, but first I should point out that while the book is about physically constructing a home (a substantial renovation in this case) it is also about the psychological work involved in creating the sense of Home with the person you love. Simon reveals, through glances back to her childhood, just what home and the security or insecurity of it has meant to her throughout her life. Some of her experiences are heart-wrenching and while you may not share those same experiences, the feelings and the effects on a child's and young woman's heart may be familiar to readers.

But, this is not a sad memoir at all. It is one of hope and the hard work that gives hope the impetus it needs to made dreams become reality. If you've ever built a home or undertaken major renovations (I have, more than once), then you will laugh and groan at Simon's experiences. Her descriptions of paint color and budget overruns and subcontractors are lively and wonderful. The author and her husband had to leave their home for a while as the construction on "Teacher's Lane" was so extensive. Simon writes about possessions and packing and trusting that the vision of her husband, an architect who designs with particular attention to the environment and sustainable materials, would come to fruition.

Be aware that Rachel Simon did not narrate "Building a Home with My Husband." It is narrated by Laural Merlington, who, according to the back cover, has recorded over 100 audiobooks. I preferred Simon's voice, as I'd heard it in "Riding the Bus with My Sister," but certainly Merlington is an experienced narrator and this is just my personal preference.

From the back of the audiobook: "Like most people, Rachel Simon lives in an imperfect house. The historic row home has charm, but it's small, dark, and has a gaping hole in the dining room ceiling. Unfortunately, selling is not an option, and Rachel and her husband, Hal, realize they have only one option, renovate.

"Rachel is prepared for the ups and downs that come with any major life change. But what she isn't prepared for are the ways the renovation forces her to confront memories she had long since tucked away and inspires her to repair fractured bonds with those closest to her. From Hal's first design sketch to the last stroke of paint, recollections of a difficult childhood, friendships left behind, challenges with siblings, and an improbably path to marriage come bursting out. Once the dust settles, Rachel comes to profound insights about the construction, demolition, and renovation of personal relationships."
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Jessica Great review! Makes me want to re-read it this summer. I liked this book so much that I just replaced my paperback with a nice hard bound edition I got for a dollar at my library's book sale. (Yay for book sales!)

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