"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.
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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
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an engaging look at the meaning of home, through the experience of one couple who "trade up" to one they love but which demands a lot work.Published 2 months ago by M. Sandmaier
Micheal is one of my favorite writers and he moves you with him through his journey of house lust to a full restoration.Published 11 months ago by Gretchen
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... Read morePublished on February 9, 2013 by Nancyd
HOUSE A Memoir is the story of buying and renovating a hundred-year-old house in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, but of the development of both Cleveland and Cleveland Heights, the way... Read morePublished on November 1, 2012 by Judie Amsel
As a native Clevelander, this book about an old house right around the corner from where I went to college really hit home (no pun intended). Read morePublished on September 7, 2005 by J. Chin