I got this book at Paperback Swap, which is nice because it lets you "try on" a book for a while, sort of like buying clothes at thrift stores -- if you find it isn't a good fit, you are only out pocket change rather than a significant fraction of your budget.
It is a pretty book, as you can see from the cover. It even has black and white illustrations at the front of every chapter. Each chapter is introduced with a quote. Each chapter itself is a sort of essay in the anecdotal, meditative, sometimes humorous style. Then at the end of each chapter, there is a "soul project" sidebar type thing which gives you questions to think about, journal prompts, and sometimes practical ideas to make your home more yours or more intentional and meaningful.
Here is the table of contents to give you the idea of the structure -- I like the approach of going through the home bit by bit and reflecting on that part of it.
Welcome: An Introduction
Part 1: The Mystique of a House
- The Threshold of Experience
- Romancing the Hearth
- No Copycat Corridor
- Back Doors to Blue Jean Days
- Windows Sometimes Break
- Walls Have Ears
- Not Your Granny's Nooks and Crannies
Part 2: My Life as a Room
- Hot Pot Haven
- Table d'hote
- Great Room, Good Living
- Boudoir Sweet
- Where Lullabies Linger
- Souful, Sensual Bathing
- Home Office, Postmodern Hearth
Part 3: The Dream Home in You
- Remodelling the Dream
- Dollhouses: Dreams in Miniature
- Finding your Tribe: The Nomad in You
- A Tree House Takes a Bough
- A Cave Dweller's Penthouse Paradox
- Crenellated Castles in the Air
- The Art of Living Interiors
Part 4: Ode to Everyday Exteriors
- Keep a Beacon Burning
- Beautiful Borders and Boundaries
- Gear Up for Garages
- Porch Swingers and Other Plucky People
- Landscape Love Songs
- Storm Shelters of the Spirit
- Fiddling on the Roof
The introduction contains this great quote from CS Lewis:
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."
So why am I not keeping the book? I was hoping to use it as a sort of retreat to go through my home bit by bit. But to go on a retreat with an author you have to feel that the author is sympathetic to you and that you can learn from him or her. And that is not going to happen here; though I am sure the author is a great person, she "feels" like a peer to me, not a mentor. And her life is not enough like mine to establish peer sympathy -- she has a couple of grown daughters, is divorced and lives and works independently. The stories she tells aren't really resonant of my own experience. She sounds like a nice person, and I find some of the thoughts and insights interesting and sympathetic, but it's not quite enough.
Probably if she was writing on a subject I find intrinsically fascinating, like parenting, it wouldn't be a problem, but I am sort of weak on household-beautifying skill and motivation, so for that I need a book that REALLY rings with me. And I don't tend to do well with books where you just grab a nice idea or suggestion here and there -- my mind doesn't seem to process that too well But if you like comfortable, narrative, home-celebrating type essays with an eclectic approach to seeking out wisdom, and an interactive format with tips and suggestions, you might like this book very much.
So I have to pass this one on without actually reading it through, though a bit regretfully.