Simon poignantly documents the next phase of her life (Riding the Bus with My Sister, 2002, etc.), in which the home becomes a metaphor for the soul.
After their row house in Wilmington, Del., was burglarized, Simon and her husband, an architect, resurrected an old argument about their living situation—he loved their urban neighborhood; she wanted more room. Since a new house was beyond their financial reach, they decided to stay and renovate. Thus begins a spiritual pilgrimage that Simon dubs the “Search for Life Purpose 2.0.” From the beginning, though, she makes it clear that she will not be wielding tools or even selecting paint. In an early scene at a hardware store, her husband was shocked by her indifference to plumbing displays. “Because Hal thinks in terms of things you can see or hear,” she writes, “he was sure I was exaggerating, despite the fact that my conversation seldom strayed from emotions and memory and relationships and the meaning of life.” As she does what she can—pack and unpack, mostly—she reviews her life: childhood wracked by the disappearance of her father, then her mother; her rocky relationships, culminating in marriage to Hal, “after nineteen years of one of the most ridiculous courtships in the history of love”; reconciliations with her mother, her father and her siblings. Because the requirements of the renovations made her more fully involved in the project that she initially planned, she began to see the beauty in the design of her life: “Just keep paying attention. Look around. See all that you don’t let yourself see.”
An unsentimental, poetic appraisal of life’s big questions.