Artnoose Noose's Reviews > All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House

All the Way Home by David Giffels
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's review
Apr 07, 2012

it was amazing
Recommended for: anyone attempting a home renovation project
Read in April, 2012 , read count: 1

I think this is the last in a series I've been reading about people doing what I want to do except with more money than I have. This has been my favorite, though.

The author is a writer who decides with his wife to buy a huge manor in a tremendous state of disrepair in Akron, Ohio, former capital of rubber manufacturing. While it could have fallen into the narrative trapping of "young cosmopolitan couple buys old house," there's enough humanity in the story to make it compelling.

I can identify with the author of this book more so than other similar books I have read. Sure, it helps that he got his start in the punk scene, but really I think what I like about him is his commitment to restorative work rather than just repainting everything. He's also interested in doing as much of the work himself as he can. He hires a contractor just for the large tasks of fitting the house with electricity and plumbing.

He carefully removes trim and numbers the pieces so he can reinstall it after refinishing. That's my kind of homeowner. He also describes details of the house with a near-fetishism that I can appreciate.

I think he's also pretty open about the psychological factors contributing to the house, about how he waits for his wife to fall asleep so he can get back to working on the house, how the restoration has taken over his life.

The couple originally buys the house to accommodate their expanding family; however, his wife begins suffering a series of miscarriages once they move in. He and his wife treat the storytelling of this painful aspect of the renovation experience with admirable candor. The author isn't just trying to renovate a house; he's struggling internally with what it means to be a father and what it takes to make a house into a real home.

I even like this book because it reflects the history of house size. There was a certain era of aristocrats owning manors with servants' quarters, etc. At some point, maintaining a house that large becomes too expensive for most people, and these homes crumble. Every year that passes makes it less and less likely for a new owner to afford to renovate it, much less heat the thing. And what kind of small nuclear family would want an eight-bedroom house? Very few.

So, kudos.

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