Thursday, September 18, 2008

Review: All the Way Home, by David Giffels

"Why are turds tapered at the end?" That is not the central question in David Giffels' All the Way Home, but it is a question to which you will find the answer. It is also the question by which I can relate the subject of running (tapering, get it?) to this book.

Also, if you run the Akron Marathon, the route goes past the Giffels house, but it's after Mile 23, so you'll be too far gone with exhaustion and electrolyte depletion to remember seeing it.

All the Way Home starts with Giffels roaming through a home improvement store, looking for something. And if you're thinking this is some sort of how-to guide to house restoration, you'd be wrong. That is, unless you're the type of person who drives past a pile of trash on the curb and thinks, There's good wood in there. Indeed, to Giffels, one man's trash is his building material.

You see, 10 years or so ago, Giffels bought this house--a small mansion, really--for $65,000. And if you're wondering what kind of mansion you can get for that price, then perhaps you're starting to get the picture. That picture would show a tangled mess of foliage that devoured this brick Tudor house built in 1913 and began its nosedive into disrepear in 1965 even though an old woman actually lived there.

Giffels and his wife, Gina, bought the house because they were expecting another baby and would no longer have enough room for their expanding family. So, they did what any young, romantic couple would do, they bought a dilapidated house that was about to be condemned.

In All the Way Home, Giffels embodies one of my favorite quotes, from Peter Egan, columnist for Road & Track, who once wrote, "If a man can't be counted on for nihilistic romantic impulse, what good is he?"

All the Way Home is a coming-of-age story, but not in your typical boy-to-young-man sense. It is about a young man learning to reconcile his eternal boy within the role of father and husband. It is about making good on promises. It is about self discovery. And of course, it is about a house. But it is not about restoring a house, but about restoring a home. And doing so with reckless abandon.

Brick by brick, Giffels exposes universal truths about being male as he builds the notion of self. However, the book lacks a strong finish. Maybe that's because the house itself isn't finished, nor will it ever be, as Giffels tells us (and as my high school art teacher told me), "It's not finished until you die or you sell it."

People who will like All the Way Home include young fathers, idealistic men, existentialists, house restorers, people who have come face to face with a squirrel in their home, DIY-ers, past and present residents of the Akron area, fans of Giffels' Akron Beacon Journal columns, morons who trust my opinion, people who want to understand these aforementioned people, and, of course, those readers who don't know why turds are tapered at the end. And it's not because they're running a marathon in less than two weeks.

Viper's rating: 4 fingers, neat

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13 comments:

Nitmos said...

I never got past your opening question as, obviously, if you are experiencing tapering this is a sign that you are a Clencher suffering from latent feelings of abandonment and unable to let go of the rotten things in your life. That'll be $25 for the diagnosis.

tfh said...

Hmm, this is the second review I've read of this book. The Post review didn't mention tapered turds, though, which made it vastly inferior to yours. I'm not sure which one of these groups I fit into (morons who trust your opinion? God forbid), or if I even do, but once I figure it out I may check it out.

Vava said...

Nice. We bought a house in 1998 that was all boarded up and it was a great move! We had no kids at the time, and I remember finding syringes and burned spoons in the back yard... Ahh, good times... Good luck on the taper.

Vanilla said...

"It's not finished until you die or you sell it." Does this only apply to houses and art or are there other things it can apply to?

Viper said...

Vanilla, I think that phrase can apply to many things. You're not referring to your kids, are you?

Ms. V. said...

Viper, you must be feeling better!

Adam said...

Tapered turds in a home repair memoir? Sounds like a shitty read. And I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Sarah said...

face to face with a squirrel in their home

Better than a bat in one's bedroom at 5:00 am. Or the other three bats that followed at various times.

Many years ago I almost bought a horrible falling-down house with grand plans to restore it. I was blinded by eight-foot tall quarter-sawn oak pocket doors and hundred-pound solid walnut newel post and conveniently didn't see the spray-painted graffiti all over the second floor. Thank god I came to my senses; otherwise I suspect I would be broke, homeless, and single.

For a little light reading I highly recommend The Runner's Literary Companion.

Big said...

I'm sad the rating system lacks any obvious drinking reference, like single malt aged 20 years, or readability with a hangover.

Hope the taper is well.

Ms. V. said...

PS-I've been to Dr. Bob's house. :)

Laura said...

Great, you're telling me I have to find and read a whole book in order to prepare for the marathon in ONE WEEK? Geez, isn't trying to get a >20 mile run in enough? And I just got an e-mail from the race director telling me I ought to do some hill training!

Xenia said...

I fit into two of your categories. No, not those. It's my dream to one day own a derelict Queen Anne house (or any house that has a turret and wrap-around porch) and fix it up. We'll see if that dream ever becomes a reality.

Thanks for the review.

Virginia Dressler said...

Viper- you forgot the line from the author at the book reading over the summer where Giffels compares the lovely city of Akron to a three-legged dog! Priceless!