Jacki's Reviews > Sugarhouse: Turning the Neighborhood Crack House into Our Home Sweet Home

Sugarhouse by Matthew Batt
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Apr 07, 2012

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bookshelves: adult-nonfiction, memoir, shelf-awareness
Read from April 07 to 13, 2012

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Having completed the stage of newlywed bliss, Matthew and Jenae Batt begin to discover that what lies on the other side doesn't look promising. Their best friends are divorcing, leaving them worried that a trapdoor might open under their own marriage. Their apartment in Salt Lake City is nice enough, if you ignore the constant accidents at the uncontrolled intersections in front of it; the disemboweled cat corpses that keep turning up; and the fact that Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped a few blocks away. With life looking down when it should be looking up, the couple starts to wonder about their future. Then Matt loses his dad and grandmother in quick succession and, as Jenae stands by him and his family through both losses, he realizes that he still deeply loves her. Determined to do right by her and improve their lives, Matt suggests getting out of their apartment and embarking on the path of homeownership.

After some initial disappointments, Matt finds a likely prospect in the Sugarhouse district of Salt Lake City: a dilapidated former crack house whose owner's attempts at renovation have done more harm than good. Determined to make a renovator's nightmare into the house of their dreams, Matt and Jenae buy the house and hop on the DIY ride of their lives. What follows is an uproarious journey of amateur power-tool operation, stripping floors with the equivalent of stabilized napalm, and developing a man-crush on an "artisan concrete worker."

Along the way, Matt grapples with his dysfunctional family, especially his grandfather. A wealthy and incurable womanizer, Grandpa has coped with his wife's death by openly parading his girlfriends in front of the shocked family, particularly Matt's mother. Readers will laugh and cringe at the elderly man's antics as Matt tries to strike a balance between convincing Grandpa to rein it in and not upsetting their relationship--partly because Grandpa holds the loan on their fixer-upper, but mostly out of love.

Anyone who has tackled home renovation or dysfunctional family blues will chuckle and nod knowingly at Matt's experiences. Everyone else: get out your belt sander, put on an episode of This Old House and prepare to laugh along with this witty, lighthearted memoir.

***This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness Readers Edition. Sign up for this free and awesome newsletter at http://www.shelf-awareness.com for the latest news and reviews! This review refers to an ARC provided by Shelf Awareness.***
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04/07/2012 page 75
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