An improbably funny account of how the purchase and restoration of a disaster of a fixer-upper saves a young marriage
a season of ludicrous loss tests the mettle of their marriage, Matthew
Batt and his wife decide not to call it quits. They set their sights
instead on the purchase of a dilapidated house in the Sugarhouse section
of Salt Lake City. With no homesteading experience and a full-blown
quarter-life crisis on their hands, these perpetual grad
students/waiters/nonprofiteers decide to seek salvation through
renovation, and do all they can to turn a former crack house into a
home. Dizzy with despair, doubt, and the side effects of using the rough
equivalent of napalm to detoxify their house, they enter into
full-fledged adulthood with power tools in hand.
Heartfelt and joyous, Sugarhouse is the story of how one couple conquers adversity and creates an addition to their family, as well as their home."
Review: Since I live in the Salt Lake area, I was intrigued by the premise of this novel when I saw it at the library, and am also a bit of a sucker for stories about grad students on a bit of a life journey. In this case, it involved a major renovation. In this area, those renovations can involve some major-league fixer-uppers, but worth a pretty penny if done correctly in the area of the valley he's written about. In short, this novel was well worth the time and I will say up front that I really did enjoy it.
As an English major, Matthew Batt knows how to craft language. His writing and observations about minute details in Salt Lake could be biting and funny at the same time. Many of the chapters in his book stood out as individual short stories that I wanted to hang onto. When he talked about searching for the perfect home in the valley, getting help at the local hardware store, or trends in construction he noticed in their home from 50 years ago, his storytelling really was so keen and spot on that I could hardly put the book down. I'm not sure how he managed to make all of that so entertaining, but he really did. I loved the details about ripping up the flooring to find lovely hard wood floors underneath that was riddled with nails from the laminate they had covered it with. A nightmare that anyone who has restored an old home might recognize. It was those details that made the story sing.
One strange part of the story that I didn't connect with was his detour into his grandfather's life. That sounds odd, considering families generally shape a person's life and add interest to a story, however, I kept feeling like it was distracting from the story at hand. I wanted the story to center more on his relationship with his wife and how she factored into this home they were working on. Instead, the grandfather and family outside of Utah kept having this continued impact on the story that turned it into a type of "finding himself" journey that I hadn't expected. Maybe that was the point, that they had been impacting this remodel more than anything else? Since this was a true story, the author's family might have played just as much of a role in this remodel and in his marriage as anything else? I simply felt my own curiosity pulling me back to his home and life he had "built" here in Salt Lake.
The writing in this book was really top notch. Certain sentences caught my attention, and I found myself rereading them, and then marking them so that I could come back to them later on. While I could understand the inclusion of the author's family, I would have liked more about his marriage that was started out in the beginning and in the title. Overall though, a very interesting book with some great writing.