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Mainstream - House - Tracy Kidder


Tracy Kidder
Mariner Books 1999
344 pages

House by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder is one of those books you keep in your permanent collection. I know, I did. House is a novel-like book about the trials, tribulations, and travails associated with building a new home from the owner's, builders', and architect's point of view. If you have had or are thinking of having a house built House by Tracey Kidder is a fascinating read

In House Tracy Kidder follows the adventures of  Judith and Jonathan Souweine, a New England couple who hire their friend Bill Rawn to draw the plans for their dream home. The book also follows the builders of Apple Corps, a team of four very different and very independent contractors who somehow ended up being in business together. Kidder manages to tell the story of what is involved in building a house from those three points of view.

There are lots of little stories and histories behind any new home and Kidder manages to make each fascinating. He goes beyond the journalistic diary of a house being built and slips in a little of the history behind certain traditions, approaches to building, and New England and American architecture. These are elegantly dadoed into the rest of the story.

What really makes House fascinating is the reader gets the point of view of the architect, the soon to be homeowners, and the builders as the project gets started, is underway, and finished. It is the little and never ending negotiations over price, what is and what is not in the plans, submissions, or what was said and not said as a series of handshake contracts got made that really make the story of a house; Kidder gets it all.

Some twenty years later it is rather interesting to read how the Souweines sweat the costs of a hundred and fifty thousand dollar home when you know it is now worth ten times that much. House, however, is really the story of three different groups all trying their very best to accomplish the task at hand to the best of their abilities and still get over the many personal conflicts that appear in the process.

If you are considering getting a house built, House by Tracy Kidder is a must read. You will get a few tricks on how to deal with your builders so as to get what you want without ruffling their feathers. If you are interested in the topic, this is a really good read. If you are, as I was at the time, just curious, House is fascinating.

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