I guess it has been over a year since this book first came out, and all of us blog-reading people were inundated with reviews for "The House of Tomorrow". And for some reason, it just never stuck its hand up and grabbed me by the hair and demanded to be read. But I should have known better. After all, it is an Amy Einhorn imprint, and for all of you who don't know, Amy Einhorn imprints are as close to a "sure thing" as you're going to get in the reading world.
But then someone (was it you Literate Housewife?) inspired me to get it on audio. So I did, and I fell in love with this book. And I'm pretty sure that no matter what I say, I'm going to come up short on this one, so I'll just preface my ramblings with a mandate...just read it.
Synopsis: Sebastian Prendergast lives in the Iowa countryside with his Napa in an experimental geodesic dome. Nana is a new age kind of gal, and is an apostle of R. Buckminster Fuller, a new age kind of guy who was an inventor, designer and futurist. Nana keeps Sebastian sequestered, home-schooling him and keeping him from the evils of society. She has high hopes for him one day, to save humanity or some such thing.
But when Nana has a stroke, and is temporarily incapacitated, Sebastian is befriended by Jared Whitcomb, his mother Janice and his hot sister Meredith. Jared is unlike anything Sebastian has every seen before. He smokes, he cusses, he loves punk rock, he has an angry chip on his shoulder, and has recently had a heart transplant. The boys form a unique friendship, though, a bond born of feeling like outsiders trying to belong somewhere. They decide to start a band and compete at the local church talent show. Meanwhile, Sebastian has to make sense of a world he never knew existed, and begins to question the wisdom of his eccentric grandmother.
Part coming-of-age novel, part ode to friendship, part ode to punk rock, and part comedy, this is one story you won't soon forget.
My thoughts: It is hard to put my finger on one specific reason why this book touched my heart. It just has "that something special", a trait I'm beginning to assume is part of the bargain with Amy Einhorn. The writing is approachable and it flows easily. It is familiar. Nana's obsession over a man who really existed, and was quite the strange bird, is fascinating.
But I think it is the characters that got me. Sebastian is an innocent. He doesn't know anything about music, or guitars, or smoking, or drinking. He doesn't understand slang. He is dear. His sudden friendship with Jared was like a cataclysmic explosion. Jared, in total opposition, is a big pain in the ass. He is foul and belligerent and abusive. It becomes obvious quickly, though, that he is a scared little boy who needs his missing father, and needs someone to treat him like a normal kid, not one who just got a new heart. The friendship touched me to the core.
The music is pretty cool too. I've never been a big fan of punk rock (although my husband is), but just as I felt in "Revolution", or with "A Visit From the Goon Squad", music was the little added touch that made this story a sum greater than its parts.
A word about the audio production: The narrator of this audio, Lloyd James, was a new voice for me. It appears he mostly narrates non-fiction, which is fine, but my advice to him would be to come on over to the fiction side a little more often. He was wonderful. He GOT this book, he got the essence of the teenage boy (both innocent and jaded ones), he got the essence of the tormented mother and the eccentric old lady. Mr. James was the cherry on top of this incredible listening experience.
5 out of 5 stars