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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

This is a little different from most book reviews I do. How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt doesn’t earn a universal recommendation from me. I’ll explain later. But, it did give me something very valuable to think about amidst a good story.

How to Build a House introduces us to Harper (love that name, btw) who has signed up to spend her summer in Tennessee building a home for a family who was displaced by a tornado. She’s a sweet girl who really is interested in helping, but she’s also a sad and bitter girl who is doing everything in her power to escape her own home life. In the process of learning to build an actual home, Harper learns a lot about what it takes to build a family. It’s an interesting journey that I was glad to take with her.

So, why the warning rather than my usual recommendation? I try very hard to only discuss books that I could recommend to my own mother. Trust me; she’s the biggest prude you’ll ever meet. In other words, if I’m gong to endorse it I want it to be squeaky clean. While How to Build a House is not exactly promiscuous, there may be some who are offended by the casual inclusion of teenage sexual activity and underage drinking.

Personally, I was not offended. I found it to be a pretty accurate portrayal of today’s youth without glamorization. There were characters who engaged in more casual sexual relationships, those that were more serious, and those that chose abstinence. There was a very satisfying aspect in which Harper begins to understand that there is a big difference between having sex and being in a relationship where you feel secure and beautiful for just being who you are. Well done, or not, be aware that these aspects are present and you might want to preview the title before recommending it to your own teenager.

Now, what about How to Build a House won it a place in my book reviews? It gave me a few beautiful moments of contemplation. One statement, in combination with the story context made me think about something that hadn’t been on my mind very much lately. It was a reminder I sorely needed.

The statement: Take off your shoes.

Not much, but think biblically for a moment. Moses was asked to take off his shoes before approaching the burning bush. He was entering a sacred space and needed to be reminded of that. Though How to Build a House does not mention Moses it leaves a very clear message:

A home is a sacred space. It is build with love and relationships and should be honored as such. Take off your shoes.

Now, I’ve heard of a lot of different reasons for taking off your shoes before entering someone’s home. This is by far my favorite. My family is not the take off your shoes at the door type. Sure, we run around barefoot most of the time but we kick off those shoes where ever we feel like it. (And hope we remember where that was the next day.) Still, it was nice to spend a few moments contemplating the sacred space of my home. Was I honoring that? Do I bring my best self whenever I enter into my home? Do I leave as much of the world outside as I can? More often than not, the answer is no.

So, that’s why How to Build a Home makes my “Worth the Read” list. I needed to be reminded to pause just a little more often on the threshold of my home, and take off my “shoes”. I need my house to be that kind of sanctuary and I’m the one who can build that kind of home.

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