An acquisitions editor and freelance writer tells the story of how she became the owner and landlady of a century-old New England tenement home.
In 2004, Warner bought a three-story house she called PennHenge in the gritty Federal Hill area of Providence, Rhode Island. She was in her mid-20s and feeling the “twinge of wanting in” to a real estate market she feared would one day be closed to her. Big, awkward, and decaying, from the street PennHenge looked like “a freakishly large tooth in a grinning mouth.” Yet Warner made the commitment to buy it anyway, convinced that she would be embarking on a “practical endeavor” that would double as her version “of a badass path less traveled.” Soon after moving in, she became painfully aware that PennHenge would need many repairs and upgrades that she could not afford. Determined to make her new living arrangement work, Warner rented out two of the three floors to a rotating cast of lively oddball characters who, like the author herself, were young and “straining to leave adolescence.” Her independence and feminist impulses pushed her to take responsibility for the house and tenant “messes large and small.” But after years of feeling overwhelmed, she learned to “cede control in order to preserve my mental state.” As Warner accepted her limitations and the cheerful chaos that defined her reality, she also realized that no matter how imperfect her home, she genuinely loved it as it was. Things in PennHenge may have been dirty, broken, or misaligned, but the author was still happy for what she had created in a world obsessed by illusions of perfect—and ultimately unsustainable—lifestyles. The book is not only a story of a young woman’s often hilarious (mis)adventures in homeownership; it is also a thoughtful meditation on how living spaces both reflect and shape the individuals who inhabit them.
Refreshingly original reading.