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House: A Memoir Paperback – March 7, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143036645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143036647
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #966,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"The architect... looked up at the stained, buckling kitchen ceiling, inhaled and exhaled deeply before saying, 'I hope you didn't pay a lot for this house.' " These were not encouraging words to Ruhlman (The Soul of a Chef) and his family, whose new fixer-upper in Cleveland Heights had "big-rodent nests" filling the walls and "sheets of [code] violations—big as a telephone book." Blending reportage and memoir, Ruhlman details his home's complete history, putting it in context with an account of the first American suburb in 1869 and a description of his family's first Christmas in the house in 2001. His well-researched history of the suburbs will interest anyone who's ever lived in one, but his in-depth chronicle of his town will enthrall only those familiar with it. The book is strongest when it focuses on personal details. The stories of the lazy real estate broker, the often-unreliable contractors, and the spiraling budgets will be familiar to any homeowner. The house puts a strain on Ruhlman's family, and Ruhlman doesn't shy from depicting the weaknesses of his marriage, even as it exposes him as overly complacent and his wife as a shrill martyr.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

For anyone who has ever bought an old house or for anyone who may be contemplating such a purchase, Ruhlman's new book is a must read. With grace, honesty, good humor, and a sense of resignation, he recounts his own near-irrational infatuation with a rambling, neglected old house in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, that pushed him to the brink of psychological and financial ruin. Ruhlman's recounting of arriving at a sale price shows how house lust befogs the mind of the normally cool and financially savvy. Even the carefully guarded comments of the house inspector on the questionable states of plumbing and roofing don't trigger the expected defensive alarms. The house takes on a persona of its own, combining the irresistible tug of sentimental security and the seductiveness of a home-wrecking floozy. Adding substance to his narrative, Ruhlman ruminates on the rise of American suburbia and its mixed legacy. And he throws in a bit of interesting Cleveland history. This book will especially appeal to fans of Ruhlman's previous portraits of restaurants and chefs. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Michael Ruhlman is the author of more than twenty non-fiction and cooking related works, including the bestselling "The Soul of a Chef," "The French Laundry Cookbook" with Thomas Keller, Charcuterie and Ruhlman's Twenty, which won both James Beard and IACP awards. He lives in Cleveland with his wife, Donna, who is the photographer on his most recent cookbooks.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Jenkins on May 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book interested me as a native Clevelander and a former resident of Cleveland Heights. It also happened that I had recently sold an old house (in Atlanta) and had happily cast off the annoyances of homeownership.

For Ruhlman, the old house that he & his wife buy becomes imbued with many meanings of home. Ruhlman grew-up in the nearby suburb of Shaker Heights and the house becomes a meditation on growing up in suburban Cleveland and being able to recapture some of that life as an adult and for his children. Cleveland Heights once rivaled Shaker Heights for prestige, but was never as carefully as planned a city and always had a socially and economically more diverse population. Shaker Heights is a beautiful suburb, but Cleveland Heights is somehow more comfortable and real. Much of Cleveland Heights predated zoning laws (which became established in law because of a court case in the nearby suburb of Euclid, Ohio), yet the basic layout of things has endured and has proven to be just as livable today as it was decades ago. Partly for privacy reasons, Ruhlman doesn't give too much detail about his immediate neighborhood, but in doing so, he fails to give Clevelanders and non-Clevelanders a real sense of place and context. Cleveland Heights is filled with leafy streets and an ecelctric mix of "traditional" architectural styles, with the odd modern, sometimes architecturally significant, interloper. The broad boulevards include tudors, french provincials and federal style homes. The side streets include various kinds of "colonials" including "dutch colonials", bungalows, "California" contemporaries and small scale tudors. Near the commercial strips, one finds the frame 2 and a half family wood framed "Buckeye front" houses that are unique to Cleveland.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Mackin on June 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ruhlman's latest book focuses on his family's renovation of a hundred year old Victorian home in the Cleveland Heights section Cleveland. Ruhlman manages to weave a history of suburbia, and America's tense relationship with its very idea, with a personal remembrance of renovating something from the studs. His discussion of the history of the Cleveland Heights section as well as his own home's owners helps to bring the area to life; I found it to be an interesting look at a city that is struggling to regain some of it's urban power. The changing nature of suburbia is the backbone for much of what he writes - how America, an ever moving nation, has changed it's view on not only suburbs but also on the very notion of home and family. He also discusses the problems this presents for him, questioning why he and his wife are choosing to subject themselves to living in the attic of their new home while contractors built what must be one of the most beautiful kitchens in the world! Ruhlman does not shy away from the tensions that are laying under the surface of his life. And even if he does not flesh them out fully or always understand his desire for this massive Victorian structure, he is honest in his confusion.

In a few instances Ruhlman can get a bit preachy about what it means to have a home. In some ways he invest too much in the actual physical property rather than what makes his house a home: his family, his wife, his neighbors, even his cooking. That would be the only slight drawback to an otherwise excellent read, one that has you thinking about the nature of urban development as well as laughing about the ups and downs of major renovations.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By CopyGal on October 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
My husband is a native Clevelander, and we met in the city before moving to Florida shortly after our marriage. We were there 2 years when I read a review on this book, and it was one of the catalysts in bringing us back to Cleveland, snow and all. Michael Ruhlman is a gifted writer, and this is clearly his love letter to his home and neighborhood. I loved it, although I'm not sure if it will be as well-received by people who do not know and love Cleveland Heights the way I do! Fascinating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ruth M. Elder on March 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was sure this book would be a winner for me. I'm from Cleveland and love it and also have a soft spot for old houses.

But this book was 'a miss' for me. First, there were too many times the author wandered off for pages and pages of monologues about the meaning of home, the literary aspects of home and while I am a college graduate, these bored me to no end.

The history of Cleveland itself was interesting enough, if overlong. But the two biggest disappointments to me were the fact that almost none of the renovations were done by the homeowners, save painting and minor demolition. And the details of the renovations were not given.

Secondly, from the very first page, almost, the author describes the house as 'creepy' and 'dark' and 'having a bad feeling'. They argue when inside, their daughter hates the place, and yet they STILL buy it. This made me loose respect for the author right off the bat.

This book is bound for Goodwill, as I will never read it again.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I heard the author speak about his Culinary book and read that; then I found this one, which I found very interesting, I always like to read about house renovations because I will never have enough nerve or energy to do one myself. I also learned about the history of Cleveland, OH, which I appreciate more. I recommend it for a quick read.
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