All the Way Home

Giffels, David. All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House. New York: William Morrow, 2008.

Reason read: All the Way Home takes place in Akron, Ohio. Ohio became a state in March.

Who buys a house  they describe with adjectives and nouns such as these: rusty, dusty, decay, debris, ruin, smelly, stained, treacherous, flaking, rotted, grime, filthy, cluttered, damaged, wreckage, decomposed, dark, cracked, dingy, chilly, ugly, broken, dirty, scratched, soot, dangerous, rotten, warped, collapsed, cramped, broken, discolored, disintegrated, discolored, poisonous, fermenting, or crusted? You half expect to find, buried deep in the debris, a mummified body a la Bates Motel. In fact, when Giffels first tours the house there is a woman, perched amid the disaster. But, buy the house he does.
Giffels, a self described handyman, needs projects. When he buys the 1913 mansion on North Portage Path (Akron, Ohio) there is every indication he has bit off more than he can chew. That only becomes apparent to himself when he attempts to remove paint from every single door hinge in the house. The master bedroom alone has seventeen doors with at least two hinges…you do the math. And that’s just hinges. Never mind the structural damage like a leaking room that requires 55 roasting pans to catch the downpour whenever it rains, or the jungle of wisteria growing in through the cracks. Then there are the uninvited guests: mice, squirrels, raccoons, termites, carpenter ants, gawkers…it’s a wonder Gina didn’t divorce him.
One of a thousand quotes of humor, “more than anything else, I do not want to die a cartoon character’s death” (p 5).
Quote of foreshadowing, “And I honestly couldn’t decide which I wanted more; to get the house, or to get the house out of my system” (p 73). Indeed, there are numerous times he hoped to get out of buying the house. Starting with his sister-in-law’s neighbor, Earl. Hoping seventy-plus-year-old realtor Earl would advise him it’s a lost cause after seeing it; praying the inspector would say it’s his professional opinion the house is hopeless; and wishing the owners will refuse his insultingly low ball offer. Giffels is seeking any and all opportunities to wriggle out of the fantasy; to escape the choke hold of unreasonable and borderline fanatical desire. None of “outs” happen for Giffels and All the Way Home is born.

Author fact: Giffels used to write for MTV’s Beavis and Butt-Head so you know he has to be funny. And. And! And, I think it goes without saying he must like music since he worked for MTV. Indeed, he quotes Tom Waits right off the bat. Other musicians mentioned:

  • Lou Reed
  • Henry Rollins
  • Paul Westerberg
  • Rage Against the Machine
  • Judas Priest
  • R.E.M.
  • Henry Mancini
  • P.J. Harvey
  • Dave Brubeck
  • Guided By Voices
  • Suzanne Vega
  • Liz Phair
  • Duane Allman
  • Janis Joplin
  • Sonic Youth
  • No Doubt
  • Gewn Stefani
  • Henry Rollins
  • Circle Jerks
  • Rod Stewart
  • Guns ‘n Roses
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Beatles
  • Joe Strummer
  • The Clash
  • Police
  • Andy Summers
  • Pete Townsend
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Chrissy Hynde
  • Yngwie Malmsteen
  • Morphine
  • Mark Sandman
  • They Might Be Giants
  • Replacements

The list was so eclectic I thought about making a mixed tape (because that’s how old I am coming from an era when mixed tapes were a thing). I would call it “All the Way Home.” Here is my (short) fantasy track listing:

    • “You’re Innocent” (when You Dream)” – Tom Waits
    • “Unsatisfied” – Paul Westerberg
    • “So. Central Rain” – R.E.M.
    • “Moon River” – Oranji Symphony
    • “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
    • “Money (that’s What I Want) – Beatles
    • “I’m Just a Girl” – No Doubt
    • “Cats in the Cradle”  – Cat Stevens
    • “Swing it Low” – Morphine

Book trivia: Aside from a smattering of photographs in the beginning All the Way Home is mostly devoid of pictures. Bummer.

Nancy said: “This is more than a do-it-yourself memoir; rather it’s a paean to his hometown” (p 168).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Ohioana” (p 168).



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