Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"All The Way Home" has deep message

Having nearly finished reading David Giffels' All The Way Home - Building A Family In A Falling-Down House, I've come to one succinct conclusion:

David didn't write this book.

He didn't.

I know the book has his name on it and there's a picture of David smiling on the back cover, but after being sucked in to his 312 pages of prose, I'm convinced that this isn't his work.

Rather, it's the voice inside David's head that penned this gem.

We all have one. A voice that tells us wrong from right and goes along with us when we make questionable decisions. I have one. You have one. Heck, some folks who pass my building at Main and Market each day have several.

David's inner voice is the first one that's learned to type at a keyboard.

Leon Bibb once told me that the best way to write is to "slit your wrists and bleed on the keyboard." The idea is of course metaphorical (and in this case Leon -- a great writer himself --was quoting another famous writer) but the implication is that purposely choosing words isn't nearly as effective as letting the words flow from the brain to the fingers to the page.

David has done that with colorful heart and soul.

While the trials and tribulations that David, his wife Gina, and the rest of their immediate family must endure are great writing material, it climbs to the next level because it's written from David's point-of-view. This book wouldn't be nearly as good had it been written by a third-person observer.

You need this book

The book is a must for husbands/fathers and a gem for all others.

Part family drama, part housing adventure, part young father-husband finding himself, the book lets readers tag along as David and Gina embark on the challenge facing so many young couples -- looking for a bigger house once the first baby arrives.

For the Giffels, they didn't want to find just any house, they wanted to find the house. And for David especially, the house meant redefining "fixer-upper" while visualizing the restoration of a castle much like Kevin Costner did a baseball diamond in the cornfields of Iowa.

While there's a chronological flow to the book's structure, David often breaks out into moments of fantasy flashback .. similar to that scene at the beginning of Titanic when the camera is pushing in on the ballroom doors of the sunken ship and for a split second it transcends to light and music as a man opens the door to welcome you in circa 1912 ... then just as suddenly you're back to reality and it's decades later with the ship on the bottom of the ocean.

In this case, David plays James Cameron by flashing back several decades to when his sunken house was alive with other inhabitants providing the energy. David not only sees those glimpses, he's able to articulate them for others to enter his brain.

I love that David thinks and writes like a real man thinks. The mansion has a billiards room. He writes it over and over just as any man who bought a house would do. A billiards room? I have a billiards room? Why yes, I have a billiards room! He also lets women in on the treasured male past-time of how men quietly compare themselves to other men by the makeup of the other man's tools. I can't explain it, it's just how we men are.

Book of characters

The house itself becomes an ever-changing character. Transitioning from unattainable manor to welcoming homestead while unveiling its secrets along the way.

I can't believe how many times I found myself remarking aloud to the next revelation in this crazy challenge. At the beginning, I was rooting for David and Gina to run away from the monster, but by the end, I was cheering them on.

You won't believe the cast of characters that come and go during the home's transition. Even the most insignificant of construction workers is captured for his creative contributions.

Without giving anything away, the home's previous owners become recurring characters long after the house changes hands.

Even the colors of the walls come alive in this book.

What's wild is that I drive by his house each day coming to work, so it's as though the house has been whispering to me "hey Eric .. it's me! the house you've been reading about!"

I just recently noticed the fire hydrant on the devilstrip in front of the Giffels house. Now I wonder if the voice in David's head saw that hydrant and said "hey, how come there's a hydrant in front of my house? Does the fire department know something I don't know about my house catching fire? Is there an omen here that I should know about? Maybe they think I'm going to burn it down for the insurance money?"

Why David Giffels is special

I'd often felt that as much as readers enjoy David's columns in the Akron Beacon Journal, that there was still something missing. I realize now what it is. The space given to David's newspaper writing is too confining. Filling 35 inches of copy for a column doesn't allow David enough space to really delve into a topic with the creativity he brings to his writing.

The book has also tought me that David is part "Ally McBeal" with music playing in his head at all hours. Not necessarily full songs, but stanzas that capture the moments. I'd expect nothing less from a man who's the area's foremost Devo anthologist.

I do wish that Gina would have written a few more chapters. Her capture of Christmas Eve was not only precious, but it's so well written that the reader almost feels like their intruding on the intimacy that only a married couple can share. That of a wife taking care of her husband when he's pushed past his limits.

I also wish there were a few more pictures in the book, but more have since appeared on-line, so they're out there.

Final thoughts

For me, the book became both a challenge and a deterrent. At one moment, I'm intimidated thinking "heck if David can fix up an entire house like this, why can't I just finish painting the basement?" The next moment I'm thinking "If David can do it, so can I. Let's go find something old and fix it!"

Getting to know David has always made me feel a bit more normal. I've felt a bit odd by holding on to my Cleveland Force pennant, Akron "Blast" t-shirt, and a Prince concert jersey still wrapped in plastic from the 1984 Purple Rain concert at the Coliseum. I'm just an Akron guy at heart, and I hate throwing those things away.

I like being able to say "devilstrip," and I like that I know what a blimp sounds like without looking up. I like that I can tell what a Swenson's cheeseburger tastes like with my eyes closed.

And I like that someone like David Giffels makes me feel like I'm not crazy for feeling that way.

Still, the deepest message any of us can take away from reading All The Way Home is that for a man to succeed he needs two things. The vision and passion to set a goal beyond his means, and to have a wife that not only supports that vision but lets him know that she believes in him no matter what.


Anonymous said...

I had planned to read David's book, but after reading your review, I MUST read the book. Thanks for your insights.


Swanny said...

It is a very entertaining read. I bought it last week in anticipation of reading it at the beach next week. I started reading it over the weekend during one of the numerous rain storms, and the next thing I knew, I have finished it. What I really enjoyed was that David's story was one that just about all of us can relate to on some level.

Ben said...

I think I will read this book. Not promising when, just that I will read it.

Anonymous said...

Have any of you read the reviews on Amazon.com? They'll make you want to run to Borders/BN in the morning and buy the book. They're not just from local fans of David, but from around the country. There's even a mention that the book was on an Oprah recommendation list.