A 67-year-old East Coast real estate broker recalls her passage through 17 homes.
If Ulysses is a part of all that he has met, Woodall is the sum of her houses. “The history of addresses I’ve had,” she says, “is a way of saying who I am.” Brought up in a well-to-do Jewish family that emphasized the social significance of an address, Woodall admits to setting great store by the location and condition of a house. She learns this lesson early when a prom date earns her parents’ disapproval because the boy comes from the wrong side of town—never mind that he’s king of the prom. The 17 houses—three childhood homes and the rest spread across three marriages—are all in New York and Connecticut, with the exception of a Chicago apartment and a largely unhappy detour into “the Heartland.” Woodall economically describes each place she has lived, and her delight in the perfect screened-in porch, tumbled-marble tile or a kitchen so large that it took “four rings on the telephone before you could walk the length of it” is so genuine that she never seems to be showing-off. Collectively, the houses document the spectacular rise in real-estate prices. The first cost $8,000 in 1941 and the last $685,000 in 2006. The book also tracks changes in architectural fashions—from pink-cabbage-rose–pattern wallpaper and Victorian tufted couches to bidets and granite-topped islands. At times, the reminiscences devolve into a welter of too many French doors, bay windows and powder rooms, but Woodall manages to retain reader interest by keeping things short and humanizing her story by working in key events of her personal life. The seemingly perfect house in which she loses her first husband in a car crash and the dream house near Yale with its state-of-the-art heating system that remains cold and sterile because of the strain in her second marriage provide the telling comment that love and fate can sometimes ruin even the most perfect address.
A lively, readable recollection that homeowners will easily relate to.