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Model Home    by Eric Puchner order for
Model Home
by Eric Puchner
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Schulenburg

When Warren Ziller moved his family from their small-town Wisconsin home to the suburbs of California, he was certain they were about to live the American dream. His three children had everything going for them, and he still loved his wife as much as when they first met. More importantly, his investment in a real estate development was about to pay off big, and soon his family would be reaping the rewards of his risky venture.

It doesn't take Warren long to realize his dreams of a perfect life are about to come crashing down. His oldest son, Dustin, disappears into rock music and a dangerous relationship. His daughter, Lyle, begins experimenting with the wrong sort of boyfriend. His youngest son, Jonas, acquires strange obsessions for a missing girl, and the color orange. And Warren's wife, Claire, can barely hold the family together.

When his car and furniture are repossessed, and he spends a night in jail for breaking and entering, Warren realizes he has to come clean - the housing complex he invested in ia a bust, and the family is ruined. But it is the tragedy that befalls Dustin which truly brings the Ziller family to their knees, and forces them each to find their own path to reconciliation and healing.

Model Home is a heartbreak of a novel. Puchner navigates his landscape of damaged psyches with care, and while his characters are truly lost and broken, his story never feels grim, because he infuses it with moments of wonderful humor. By narrating the story from the viewpoint of each member of the Ziller family, the reader is allowed to sympathize with each character in meaningful and immediate ways. And while each person has their own poignant moments, it is family outcast Jonas who will be truly impossible to forget.

This is not an easy novel - the pain and discontent are often palpable. But Puchner's excellent writing makes it a worthwhile reading experience, and I do recommend it. I know it is a novel I won't soon forget, and I look forward to more by this promising new author.

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