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From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story Hardcover


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From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story + Castles in the Air: The Restoration Adventures of Two Young Optimists and a Crumbling Old Mansion
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0897336240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0897336246
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,130,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

I fell for the house, I fell for the girl (and, predictably, her dowager of a basset hound), but most of all, I fell for Ron Tanner, one very fine storyteller. I'm still a bit stunned that I could become so entranced by a tale involving rehab nerds, real-estate shysters, frat-house vandals, Dumpsters, rats, and a whole lot of tools, but I'm enough of a writer to know this: when someone of great heart meets the most deeply personal challenge of a lifetime -- especially when it seems strange or insane to just about everyone else -- that's the place where the best and most moving stories begin. For Ron Tanner, it began with a woman wrapping glasses in an antique shop . . . and a small sign in a Baltimore window. How little he knew of what was to come, and how glad you'll be that he never backed down.

-    Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and The Widower's Tale


When I was a few pages into From Animal House to Our House, I wanted to shout, "Go back! Go back!" But Tanner and his girlfriend persisted with their daunting home-renovation project, and ended up with (spoiler alert) a beautiful house, a marriage that survived beyond the last page, and an excellent book. And the man is a talented illustrator as well: he draws a mean perforated PVC drainpipe. This is the perfect read for anyone who has ever wandered the aisles at Home Depot in a blissful daze.

-    David Owen, staff writer for The New Yorker, author of Green Metropolis


FROM ANIMAL HOUSE TO OUR HOUSE: A LOVE STORY, will sweep you off your feet the way traditional love stories do, but with one difference: you'll also fall in love with the house.  In this truly compelling story, love and a nail gun conquer everything.

-    Jessica Anya Blau, author of Drinking Closer to Home and The Summer of Naked Swim Parties


Ron Tanner’s life is a testament to the power of hard work, a big heart, blind romance, and even outright idiocy. What does he have to show for it? Only a beautiful house, a loving marriage, and now this inspiration of a book. Pass me my hammer!

-    Chris Jones, writer-at-large for Esquire


In addition to being a love story, a how-to guide, an urban adventure, and even a coming-of-age memoir, From Animal House to Our House is a classic American tale, a portrait of an artist compelled to replace destruction with dignity, to consecrate the past, and to create ­ via hope and sweat ­ a life of beauty and meaning.  It’s rare for a book to appeal to poets and plumbers, but Ron Tanner’s experiences are intensely human; this book is for anyone who’s ever been seduced by a dream and yearned for the deepest sort of restoration.

-    Lia Purpura, author of On Looking and Rough Likeness


I might seem the worst possible person to comment on Ron Tanner's memoir as I am totally uninterested in old houses and home renovation. Actually, this makes me the perfect person. Can you imagine how good a book it would have to be for me to like it? For me, the introspection, the humor, the incredible wisdom about bugs, the love story and the charming illustrations had to carry the book. They certainly do. Tanner is a master of small, sharp, hilarious insights, such as "There was no middle ground for mom. Either our lives were pitiful or miraculous." I love that.

-    Marion Winik, author of Glen Rock Book of the Dead

Book Description

Ron and Jill—his girlfriend of six months—discovered the house of their dreams in 2000: a landmark Baltimore brownstone that had belonged to a notorious fraternity. It was condemned property, had sat abandoned for nearly a year, and was such a wreck that no one would buy it. But Jill wanted the house and Ron wanted Jill. So he bought the 4500-square-foot ruin. Neither he nor Jill knew anything about house repair or renovation. The bank gave them six months to get the house up to code. The neighborhood historians told them flatly, “You’ll never bring that house back.” Ron’s realtor said, “This house will eat you alive.” Ron’s mother said, “Why do you always do things the hard way?” 

Impulsive and quixotic—and with two marriages behind him—Ron inspired little confidence. His life had been a series of mistakes and wrong turns. He recognized that taking on this wrecked frat house could be the biggest mistake of his life and he wondered if this time, in what seemed his final reach for love, he had reached too far. As soon as he and Jill started working on the house, they were at odds every day and it became clear to them both that the project would very likely ruin them financially and emotionally. Panicked, flirting with bankruptcy, and barreling through disasters, they had to learn how to live, love, and work together—and succeed against seemingly insurmountable odds. 

A book for lovers, dreamers, do-it-yourselfers, and fans of old houses, From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story recounts Ron and Jill’s adventure, offering inspiration, insight, and hilarity as they hammer away at the American Dream of home ownership and true love. In 2008, This Old House magazine published a feature story about Ron and Jill’s work. The online version of this story drew more than 400,000 readers to the magazine’s website.


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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This truly was a funny, well written book.
Montessorimama
I loved the book and have recommended it to all of my friends and purchased copies for my relatives.
Suzy Q
The love story of Ron and Jill runs throughout the book.
Simone

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. B. Wexler on March 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"From Animal House to Our House" is part love story, part This Old House, (or 'The Money Pit'!), and part one man's personal journey. Ron Tanner weaves the tale of saving an old house that seemed beyond repair with the story finding the love of his life and reflections on his own life story. I was completely drawn in to the details of the renovation, though I'm not handy myself at all. I had to ration my reading out;I was eating it up, but didn't ever want to get to the end.
There's something in this book for everyone. What a fantastic read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Margo Solod on February 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after reading about Ron Tanner's DYI book tour in a Poet's and Writer's article. Something tells me he sold as many books from that article as he did from the tour. Tanner writes about his multi-year project painstakingly restoring an ancient and enormous Victorian house in Baltimore that had been literally gutted and trashed by the fraternity that had previously owned it. Along the way he details not only the rebuilding of the house, but his building of a "hopefully" lasting relationship. I'd have liked a little more construction and a little less angst, but I am sure there are others who would have preferred the reverse. all in all, a highly entertaining and well-written account of a man, a woman, and a house.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert Steinberg on February 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My wife and I have renovated 4 homes including a few that are historic. Ron's and Jill's story is very easy to relate to, especially since the only exposure to renovating that my wife and I had was from the How-To programs on TV. After experiencing a few less than stellar contractors, we decided that we could do a better job ourselves. We had the privilege to tour Ron's and Jill's house during a recent holiday house tour and it is as outstanding in person as it is described in the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chris on January 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I have next to no interest in historical preservation and yet I felt compelled to read this entire book. This a memoir, so of course the entire book is not about reapplying plaster or finding a contemporary door knob. The author meets a woman and falls in love and one of the primary reasons he decides to restore this monster, three-story Queen Anne house, is to cement their relationship. The author is certainly a patient man; some of the stuff his girlfriend pulls during the restoration would make most people pretty angry. Prior to them restoring the house, it had been a frat house. The frat had nearly destroyed the house and literally left s*** all over the place. The fact that they were able to restore the house with the difficulties they had and not murder each other is testament to their love for each other. Kudos to Mr. Tanner for restoring his house with little money, no experience, and turning the process into an enjoyable memoir.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Karen Laird on January 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As a researcher of Victorian literature, I knew that I would love this book's spotlight on the Victorian house. Yet I am not one to watch home restoration shows or browse the aisles of a hardware store. I've rented apartments for years and only lift a hammer if the landlord fails to answer in a dire emergency. Yet I adored this book, which kept me brilliant company on a long transatlantic flight. I chose to keep reading through all of the free movies, in fact, and couldn't wait to finish it when I got to my destination.

This is a book for anyone who loves old houses, American history, classic romance, and great writing. It is not a collection of blueprints and how-to project advice (as one reviewer on this site laments). Quite simply, the house changes the writer, and that's the heart of this restoration story. Ron Tanner's unwavering optimism, self-deprecating sense of humor, and uncommon faith make him a highly likeable narrator. His partner in dumpster diving, Jill, proves a refreshingly quirky heroine. Throughout their courtship, this pair builds the good life for themselves room by room and floor by floor -- not 'good' in terms of wealth or prestige or even beautiful vintage furniture, but in terms of building a home where friends, family, pets, neighbors, and students are genuinely welcomed.

The writer's profession as a university instructor adds another engaging layer to this story. As Ron Tanner recounts the house abuse that the fraternity members of one of our country's more prestigious universities committed, a grim portrait of the spoiled and entitled, vulgar and violent college student emerges all too clearly. But then we see a wonderful counterpoint: the university professor cleaning up the students' trash on an unprecedented scale.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By suzanne e keilson on August 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not a nuts and bolts (pun intended) book about house rehabilitation. That much of a spoiler I can provide. Nowadays I try and decide if a book is "paper worthy" or if I will just download it on an ereader as an almost impulsive purchase that I can read once and move on and not feel guilty about environmental impace (or finding space on my shelves). My one regret is that I did buy this as an e-book and this is definitely a book that bears being on a bookshelf and repeat reading. The other concrete thing I would say, an interesting observation about e-books, is that at least on my old kindle, the impact of the lovely illustrations was quite diminished. I could not see the detail I would like and I could not increase image size or do the kind of easy flip back and forth and thoughtful gazing that images deserve. I liked this enought that I may go ahead and by the paperback as well. Here are some other things of note for me about this book. The writing style is so gently self-deprecating, sohpisticated, subtle humor. I am not sure how he achieves that effect, but I would love to be in his writing class to learn. I also loved the way he was able to "wander" off topic, bring in some historical, philosophical, sociological perspectives and then easily wend his way back to were the thread of the story left off. Some may not like this, but this is no simple "how to" but a real contemplation of meaning and purpose and even perhaps how we are all prisoners of our families of origin but can also learn to live and grow from that.
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