Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House

The title attracted me – life would be perfect if

Using the recent real estate debacle as the beginning and end of her story, Meghan Daum’s humorous memoir resembles the style in  “Eat, Pray, Love”  – but Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House is much better written, funnier, and even offers cautionary advice to those seeking perfection in a place.

From Texas to New Jersey to a farmhouse or two in Nebraska, with a few rent-controlled gems in New York City and tumble-down houses with panoramic views in Los Angeles, Daum chronicles her life in moves:

“The number of houses and apartments I’d rented in my adult life far exceeded the number of boyfriends I’d had.  It probably even rivaled the number of expensive shoes I’d ever owned.”

Always alert for that next place,  Daum introduces her family and friends with their laughably exaggerated foibles but with enough realism that you might recognize their characteristics in some people you know.  Meghan’s mother only finds perfection when she gets her own place; I understood her constant state of  anxiety, trying to fit into a house/neighborhood/lifestyle.

In her first person narrative, Daum seems to be talking to you, “dear reader.”  Her conversational style  includes her obsessed scouring of Craigslist, open house tours, and decorating fantasies, until she ultimately manages to overdo some details – especially in her early years.  But as she marches through Vassar, post-college, and her thirties, the search for good real estate sprinkled with her own anxieties will keep you reading.

When she finally finds a house (a fixer-upper beyond help), depleting her savings  at the height of the real-estate bubble, and settles into enjoying her solitude, of course, she finds a guy.   Her angst at giving up closet space and the freedom to eat salami over the sink will have you smiling, but the reason they finally decide to take the plunge and move in together will ring true to any city dweller who has tried to find a parking space.

Witty and sometimes laugh out loud funny, Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House does have a moral to the story at the end – one well-known and often ignored – a house is just a place after all; a home is what you make it.

Daum uses her royalties from the sale of her novel to buy that house; I plan to find her book.  She left me wanting more.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

Bits of material, a faded pressed rose, ticket stubs – memorabilia that instantly trigger an emotion.  Perhaps you have a scrapbook full of old pieces of your life that you reopen now and then.

In The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, Caroline Preston reveals her heroine’s life and the nineteen twenties era she lived through – with postcards, snips of old catalog ads, graduation announcements, candy wrappers, and more.

Who says you can’t tell a story without words?  Frankie’s high school graduation gifts are a scrapbook and her dead father’s Smith Corona typewriter; her dream is to become a writer.  As she grows from  “smartest girl in her class” to editor in a Paris magazine, Preston uses pictures – scraps actually – with captions to tell her story:

  • a seductive love affair with an older man that leads to a scholarship at Vassar,
  • her post-college apartment in Greenwich Village from the recommendation of Edna St. Vincent Millay (a fellow alum),
  • an escape from unrequited love that sends her to Paris and an apartment over the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore of James Joyce, and an old flame rekindled –
  • until finally returning home to nurse her mother from tuberculosis and finding true love “in her own back yard.”

As Preston reveals Frankie’s coming of age tale, she offers full-page collages that include fashion, furniture, vintage ads, photos and sketches from the twenties with a sprinkling of short dialogue at appropriate junctures.

A romantic tale full of history and nostalgia – a picture book for adults.

Look inside The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt at Preston’s website – here