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The Fixer Upper: A Novel Hardcover – 2009
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Stranger in the House" by Shari Lapena
In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A thriller packed full of secrets and a twisty story that never stops - from the bestselling author of "The Couple Next Door." See more
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The delightful New York Times bestselling author returns with a hilarious novel about one woman's quest to redo an old house . . . and her life.
After her boss in a high-powered Washington public relations firm is caught in a political scandal, fledgling lobbyist Dempsey Jo Killebrew is left almost broke, unemployed, and homeless. Out of options, she reluctantly accepts her father's offer to help refurbish Birdsong, the old family place he recently inherited in Guthrie, Georgia. All it will take, he tells her, is a little paint and some TLC to turn the fading Victorian mansion into a real-estate cash cow.
But, oh, is Dempsey in for a surprise when she arrives in Guthrie. "Bird Droppings" would more aptly describe the moldering Pepto Bismol-pink dump with duct-taped windows and a driveway full of junk. There's also a murderously grumpy old lady, one of Dempsey's distant relations, who has claimed squatter's rights and isn't moving out. Ever.
Furthermore, everyone in Guthrie seems to know Dempsey's business, from a smooth-talking real-estate agent to a cute lawyer who owns the local newspaper. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the pesky FBI agents who show up on Dempsey's doorstep, hoping to pry information about her ex-boss from her.
All Dempsey can do is roll up her sleeves and get to work. And before long, what started as a job of necessity somehow becomes a labor of love and, ultimately, a journey that takes her to a place she never expected--back home again.
Mary Kay Andrews's Top Fives
We caught up with Mary Kay Andrews, the prolific author of The Fixer Upper, Deep Dish and other bestselling Southern-fried romances, and learned about a few of her favorite things--from books to musicals to interior decorating tips (a passion of hers which plays a prominent role in her new book).Top Five Books
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
- Void Moon by Michael Connelly
- Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
- Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie
- Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard
- Sabrina (the original with Audrey Hepburn)
- Charade (again, the original with Audrey Hepburn)
- When Harry Met Sally
- Auntie Mame (not the gawdawful musical)
- The Quiet Man
- Shabby Chic by Rachel Ashwell
- A House in the South by Frances Schultz and Paula Wallace
- Mary Emmerling's Beach Cottages by Mary Emmerling
- Mary Emmerling's American Country Cottages by Mary Emmerling
- An Affair with a House by Bunny Williams
- An old house needs old doors, hardware and fixtures. Nothing says “new and cheap” faster than a flimsy hollow-core door and bright gold repro brass hardware. Look for solid wood doors and wood frame windows at salvage yards and antique markets. And don’t forget to check the “building materials” category on Craigslist. I got all the doors for my beach house off Craigslist--for $5 apiece. Vintage hardware can frequently be found at flea markets, or check online sources like eBay.
- Vintage light fixtures give a great look--but be sure you factor in the cost of re-wiring them, and finding good-looking shades. Nothing gives a lamp that “granny” look faster than a dingy yellow shade.
- Before you invest in antique cast-iron claw-foot tubs or sinks, make sure they have proper fittings. Measure drains and faucet spreads and make sure you can find new ones that will fit and function properly. Antique toilets are generally a bad idea--most local codes require low-flow toilets for water conservation.
- Before re-wiring a house, put together a furniture floor plan. You don’t want a heat register under the living room sofa, but you will want outlets on either side of the bed for reading lamps, and for any area that might be used as an office you’ll want plenty of grounded plugs. And how about that flat-screen television your husband wants? Plan now for cable locations.
- Be flexible. A great fireplace surround could become a headboard, as could an old paneled door--turned sideways. And that leaded glass window that had to be removed in the remodel? Why not fit it with mirrors and a hinge and make it into a bathroom medicine cabinet?
- Pair of barrel-back armchairs--$30 at an estate sale. They were covered in gold embossed vinyl when I found ‘em. But with the legs stained ebony, and a gorgeous blue Ralph Lauren fabric reupholstery, they’re perfect by my fireplace.
- Set of eight antique Wedgewood black and cream transferware plates--$30 at an estate sale. The seller’s mother used some of them for cat dishes, others as an ashtray!
- Vintage landscape oil painting, Tuscany maybe? Or Provence? Who cares! Bought at a “divorce sale”--the ex-husband sold this beautiful painting for $50 because it had belonged to his ex-wife. I spent a small fortune framing it, but it’s the basis for a collection of treasured landscape paintings.
- Wicker settee, Salvation Army find for $25. I’d walked to the store, and had to hoof it back home in a hurry for money and my car.
- Faux alligator train case--found at a yard sale. When I asked the seller if she’d do better on the price, she replied that she’d give it to me for free--if I could figure out how to open it. Since it had a combination lock like the one on my high school graduation luggage, I twirled the dial to 0-0-0--because I never figured out how to change mine--and sure enough, the lock popped open. Score!
From Publishers Weekly
Andrews's latest Southern charmer begins with junior lobbyist Dempsey Jo Killebrew in the crosshairs of a political bribery investigation. Suddenly unemployed and the victim of a sleazy smear campaign by her former boss, Dempsey decides to take up her father's offer of flipping a recently inherited family home in Guthrie, Ga. As it turns out, the house needs much more than a fresh coat of paint, and Dempsey's ornery cousin and her dog are squatting there. So it is that the formerly glamorous Dempsey steps into her dead uncle's overalls and chips her manicured nails as she scrubs and sands her way through fixing up the house, quickly finding a renovation groove, fitting in with the locals and embarking on a romance. Meanwhile, the FBI and a pesky reporter come asking questions about the bribery accusations. This authentic tale of cleaning up life's messes and self-discovery is bright, engaging and thoughtful, enlivened by Andrews's quirky characters and lovely backwoods setting. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
With only a vague image of a genteel southern plantation house in need of a little sprucing up, Dempsey gets quite a shock when she actually lays eyes on "Birdsong" - the place is a disaster. From the Pepto-Bismol pink paint to the rotting roof, there's nothing "genteel" about this dump. Add to that an elderly woman who refuses to vacate and two FBI agents breathing down her neck, and it looks like Dempsey's stay in Guthrie should be pretty...interesting.
This was a really fun story and I enjoyed it so much. The author created an endearing cast of characters that came to life on the page. The people that Dempsey meets in Guthrie, from the charming father and son lawyers to the cantankerous "squatter", are engaging and vividly drawn. The dialog had such a natural feel to it that I could easily get lost in the story and I loved the conversations that Dempsey would have with people that she randomly encountered in Guthrie. I was leery that this would be one of those stories where the prickly "city girl" get her pre-conceived notions about small-town "hicks" handed to her on a platter, but happily this story is far more nuanced than that hoary old trope. Great characterization, strong dialog, an interesting storyline...I wish every book I picked up had writing this smooth and professional!
One thing you should know (because this may be a deal breaker for you), is that there is a lot of detail about home renovation. As Dempsey takes on the Herculean task of rehabbing "Birdsong", there's quite a bit of information about remodeling an ancient kitchen, salvaging furniture...that type of thing. Now I enjoyed that, but I'm an HGTV fiend - I love me some "Real Estate Porn"! If that is not your thing you might find yourself getting a bit bored in places - just something to consider.
There's a little bit of a romance for Dempsey, but it doesn't really dominate the storyline. I'd probably label this as "Chic Lit" with a Southern accent and a touch of HGTV thrown in for good measure.
Occasional strong language and some mild (non-explicit) sexual content.
I know it's fiction but please....It wasn't horrible, but it was just too far fetched for me.
I swear sometimes I think that once an author makes a name for themselves they get someone else to write their books for them. I now have added Mary Kay Andrews name to this list along with Luanne Rice and Dorothea Benton Frank (whom I used to love.)
One of the main things that bothered me was that Dempsey would call her dad "Dad" and then in the very next paragraph call him "Mitch". Example: Pg 22 - We'd gone into Mitch's study, etc. A few sentences later, Dad sat behind the desk. What was with that ? Did the same thing with her mother. Page 336 "I'm fine Mom." A few sentences later- "Um, Lynda, this suitcase is pretty big." Pg 362- "Mom, we have to talk". Same page- "I love you Lynda, but you have got to give me some space." This went on all through the book. I almost didn't finish the book because this bugged me so much !!!!
The main character Dempsey should have drop kicked Ella Kate to the curb from the get go but of course it was the other way around and Ella Kate verbally kicked Dempsey's butt almost through the whole story. I liked most of the other characters, especially Tee and his father who supported Dempsey throughout her whole ordeal. The ending was another story. It ended very abruptly and not at all believable. I kept looking to see if maybe the last page was missing. By the way, I agree with one of the other reviewers that mentioned the political references throughout the book. Doesn't matter to me if it's liberal or conservative, but it was just plain mean spirited and completely unnecessary.