Review: Model Home

Model Home

Model Home
By Eric Puchner
(Scribner, Paperback, 9780743270496, September 2010, 384pp.)

The Short of It:

Puchner creates one of the most heartbreaking stories of our time. Sad and beautiful, its message resonates.

The Rest of It:

Dreaming of untold riches in the real estate market, Warren Ziller moves his family to a gated community in (Rancho) Palos Verdes, California.  There, they live the American dream. Nice house, nice neighborhood. But Warren has a secret. The real estate development that he’s invested in has tanked, and his family has no idea what looms ahead.

Once in a while a book comes up out of nowhere and just slaps you in the face. I first heard about Model Home when it was featured in this year’s Tournament of Books. Simply put, it sounded like my kind of book. It was set in Southern California, it had all the family dynamics that I seem to crave, and dysfunction… lots of it. I expected to enjoy it, but I did not expect to love it as much as I did.

This book will break your heart.

You will re-read passages over and over again because Puchner’s writing is so exquisite. His writing is both beautiful and raw, which doesn’t even sound right when put together in one sentence.

You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, people liked to say. In truth. there was not much time, a blip, and most of what you did was a mistake. You were lucky to find a safe and proper home. In the end, even the world cast you out, withdrawing its welcome.

The characters are so well-developed, that I cried for them. Their predicament is so dire at one point, so delicate and precarious that I had to pace my reading or be overwhelmed by grief.

If you search for reviews on this book,  you’ll see that many found this book to be depressing. I didn’t. It’s an honest account of a family falling apart, but in many ways it’s hopeful too.

I want everyone to read this book. It’s my fave of the year (so far) and if you happen upon the interview with Eric Puchner, discussing the book, hold off on it until you’ve read it because it gives a huge plot point away!

Source: Purchased.

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36 thoughts on “Review: Model Home”

  1. Ti, WOW! This book sounds amazing! Your review of it is excellent – its so effusive that I’ve decided to head to the bookstore after work to pick up a copy 🙂 Can’t wait to read this one! Thanks, Ti!

  2. Well, shit I just finished East of Eden so how much worse could it get??? Loved the book but goodness. Had to pull out a David Sedaris to keep myself from going into a funk. OK, well I saw you raving about this book on Facebook and I have to pay attention when you do these things. I really don’t know how I’m going to fit it in though…

    1. This is adifferent kind of sad. Not East of Eden sad. It’s hard to explain until you read a few paragraphs of Puchner’s writing. Everything he writes is tinged with meaning. I can wait for you to read (hear) it!

    1. Every one of these characters was so well-developed. Even the lesser characters. Actually, some of them were my favorite. The website markets it as a “funny, humorous” story… I certainly didn’t get that, but it’s so memorable. And the second half of it is set in the Antelope Valley which is just a stone’s throw away from me. Puchner hit the nail on the head with his descriptions of it. That desert community IS depressing.

  3. Oh, this does sound very good, and also very emotional. I am finding that books in this vein are really enticing to me lately. I just finished a book that had it’s toe into the financial crisis, and found it oddly satisfying to read about. I am going to have to add this one to my list, as the book sounds incredible! Thanks for the excellent review!

  4. This sounds really good. My book club teases me, saying that the more depressing a book is the more I’ll like it. It’s kinda true. I’ll be adding this one to my tbr pile.

  5. Seeing as how I usually like books that most people find depressing, I might need to look into this one. I really liked the part you quoted.

  6. This book has been on my radar for over a year. I actually own it. But haven’t made time to read it. I am so happy you have and that you loved it. I will have to drag it off the shelf and read it. Thanks!

  7. Ooh I’m so glad you said all this because I saw this book at the library last year and almost took it home but did not. Now I’m going to go back and get it. 🙂

    1. It’s not the same intense as reading about child abuse or molestation and it’s got humor here and there too, which makes it easy to read. It’s just very thought provoking. You will be so thankful for your life after you’ve finished it.

      1. This is one of those books where you flinch whena character admits something, yet you can totally understand why they feel the way they do. They are human and flawed and hit with quite a bit of awefulness, but I loved them!

  8. My husband grew up in Rancho Palos Verdes, FWIW.

    I wish I’d known about this book last week! I just did a post for CBS Los Angeles (“Best of LA” on suggesting late-summer reading set in Southern California and/or by local authors, and I definitely would have included it. But I know about it now, and it’s out in trade PB, so I’ll be picking it up myself soon – thanks for the strong recommendation! Domestic fiction with a twist is definitely my thing.

    1. The second half of the book takes place in Lancaster (Antelope Valley) and that’s very near me. So strange to read about a desert community I am actually familiar with.

      Congrats on your CBS stint! You’re famous!

  9. That paragraph that you quoted was awesome… I SO get that. I’m going to add this book. I think I would like it right now (plus, if it’s your favorite… gotta read it to see inside Ti’s head :)).

  10. So this is the fave of the year. It does sound intriguing for sure. To be honest I hadn’t heard of it before but it sounds like my kind of book too so I’m off to check it out on Amazon. You aren’t good for my pocketbook. Lol.

  11. I had to re-read some of the deep-thoughts and also marked a few in my goodreads status updates. I think we agree on this one for the most part but it resonated just a little stronger for you. I will link to this on my post.

  12. Oh! and I wanted to add that I was just cringing that something horrible was going to happen to Jonas and ached for that poor kid! and THAT, at least, ended … not bad. ? But then when he wondered if they would still love him if he really had done what they thought he did after finding out he didn’t do it, my heart broke again; more.

    1. I know!! I wept for him. I can’t imagine a kid having to carry that baggage around. You know when I first heard of the book, I didn’t read the back cover and had no idea about the accident. I was completely taken by surprise by it. I was thinking, how much more can this family take?

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