Received a copy of Under One Roof By Barry Martin With Philip Lerman through the First Reads Giveaway
A little thought about the main character to set the scene. Edith's favourite cookie is shortbread, but not just any shortbread, Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread cookies. Forget all the glitz and glamour brought on by sprinkles and icing, sometimes the best things in life are best achieved with simplicity.
This is a story of friendship between two unlikely strangers. In my mind if you take away some of the particulars this is essentially a love story. But not in the prototypical sense of your vivid imagination that you may be accustomed to while perusing the drugstore paperbacks. The majority of the time when you say love story you hear of rugged,successful, self-assured, and dominant men named Shae, Rider, Kennedy, Riley and Addison...(you get the picture). The woman are usually elegant, buxom, ageless, and social butterflies named Shae, Rider, Kennedy, Riley and Addison... again enough said. The love for each other in this scenario is purely physical and fraught with bickering, contention and ultimately the all important makeup sex.
This unique and heartfelt story takes place in Ballard, Washington around the time of 2005 to 2007. In this tale of grace and compassion you have a fiftysomething year old construction supervisor named Barry Martin and an eightysomething year old retired renaissance woman named Edith Wilson Macefield. Their certainly are bouts of contention within this relationship. In the same breath the physical nature between the two involves: the administration of oral medication, the injection of insulin, the maintaining of personal hygiene and a goodbye kiss on the forehead. In every relationship their is a give and take, and the one between Barry and Edith is no different. The objects of affection will give Edith peace and tranquillity during her final time on earth, while what Barry receives will stay with him for a lifetime.
At the start of the book Barry is in a weird spot in his life. He was abruptly let go of his 10 year project superintendent job due to business shutdown brought on by economic instability. He instantly took a job building assisted-living facilities.Immediately thereafter he received a call from his buddies that wanted "to get the band back together" and form a new project development firm called Ledcor. He accepted and from that point going forward Barry would never be the same man.
Within the scope of his immediate family, his children are at a crossroads from the standpoint of being early adolescence in high school transitioning to independent living. Meanwhile his parents are also at their own crossroads from happy retirement living to the eventuality of health problems and the erosion of skills. You would think that a man with this much on his plate, why would he need anymore unnecessary distractions? Taking on these distractions allows one old woman to enable a man to handle the internal conflicts that often face children as their parents approach that tender age.
One of the best features of the novel was the heartfelt letter from Barry's daughter Kelsey to her father. This was proof that his direct decision making had a positive indirect influence on the tailoring of a "true human being". As a father the pride is palpable, as a potential father I hope my children learn the importance of thinking of others and following your heart. And you are right Barry, you don't get any luckier in life than that.
Edith kept Barry on a string by always revealing little bits of information at a time. When courting woman I always thought that you should "always leave them wanting more" before they get sick of you. The way Edith kindly played Barry like a fiddle reinforces this thought and the power of mystery and intrigue.
Another interesting element of the story was the dichotomy of change Edith faced on a daily basis. At times she was fully accepting of her limitations of normal activities, on the other hand she resisted. Barry's responsibility in easing this matter is a learning experience for all.
Personally over the course of time of their relationship I would have not been able to handle the constant attack of my "weakness" in caring and preferential treatment of the elderly. Initially you treat them with the utmost respect, by developing a friendship you lose track of the limitations and treat them as "human beings" which they want. When they start playing both sides of the fence, that's when I have an issue, and I am sure we would've butted heads on more than one occasion. Congratulations to Barry for staying the course and maintaining a stiff upper life.
This book was reminiscent of one of my favourite movies Big Fish. The relationships are a little different, the way they treat each other is less compassionate, but the long lasting impressions are all too similar. A way in which one man’s so called life can live on forever through the art of the fantastic and the true value of storytelling in broaching a child's unconditional love, is one that is very comparable to this novel.
"I had to put those feelings away, had to let him return
to being a man, to the pride that his age owns, and needs,
and demands, because in many ways it is the one thing that
holds him in place while the world is starting to crumble
and turn around him."
I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a homey, down-to-earth story with plenty of emotion and a lot of life lessons to go around.