DREAMING IN THE DUST: Restoring an Old House by Katherine Chrisman

DREAMING IN THE DUST: Restoring an Old House

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Charming, ironic, brief architectural epic about restoring a fine old Minneapolis house as it cracks and splits around the new owners. The Chrismans, Katherine and Charlie and kids Katie and Chris, have restored and lived in one cramped house for 11 years when they discover a marvelous, mouse-eaten, beam-rotting, 100-year-old, three-story wedding cake facing a small lake--a tilting pile of terraces, curves, and organic idiosyncrasies that looks ready to fall over. They resist and resist, Charlies says no in his yes voice, then finally sells their old house and buys it. They are putterers at heart: Charlie needs to build a garage for his three, peerlessly restored antique cars, and Katherine is bemused to her backbone by the layers upon layers of house hidden by the wallpaper, the new shingles covering the wonderful old fish-scale shingles underneath. They discover some old photos of the house and decide to restore it to its former glory. They promise themselves to do it bit by bit, in minor, manageable ways that won't exhaust them, just a freshening coat here and there. Except that the ceilings are falling, the roof leaking, and general horror breaking out. In fact, one closet door has terrible gouges where a mad former tenant, locked up by her family when she had her fits, tried to claw her way out. Soon they are adrift in dust. Wrong pipes are sawn, the new kitchen floor is flooded, long and snaky cracks appear in newly plastered walls, and more cracks as the new chimney and new floors and walls and weights everywhere shift and settle into a new balance. The very first night they move in, a chandelier falls, creating a huge gouge in the newly finished floor. After the initial infatuation, the Chrismans go through two years of endless chaos and hurly-burly, alienation of their children, weird accidents such as Katherine getting stuck out on the snow-heavy pitched roof which she has to shovel or the weight will collapse everything. Maddeningly heartwarming.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1986
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin