"Home Repair" by Liz Rosenberg


A few doors had small holiday wreaths up, or cut out paper turkeys.  There were pairs of boots slumped out in the hallway, but the carpet looked new.  There was a distinctive Binghamton smell — old wood, cooked onions and cabbage, cedar chips, lemon furniture polish.

“At least it’s clean,” Mrs. Dunrea said.
— from “Home Repair”

An aroma of Binghamton permeates the novel “Home Repair”.  It’s not simply the precision of the setting at Rec Park or Jack Sherman Toyota.  Binghamton plays itself as a corner of the world with a bleak climate, moody old neighborhoods and a large university peopled by its share of eccentrics. The action begins at dawn before a garage sale — what could be a more Binghamtonian event? — with a family roused by early bargain hunters.  The garage sale has been organized by Eve, who is constantly straining to balance her work as a secretary in the university art department with a domestic life as a wife and mother of two.

Eve’s first husband died in an auto accident leaving her with a son, Marcus.  She and her second husband, Chuck, have a daughter, Noni.  It seems to be a reasonably stable family until, on the morning of the garage sale, Chuck takes off.  Though Eve is in need of emotional and practical support, she is further distracted by the care she must provide for her mother, Charlotte Dunrea, who seems to always find the gloomy side of any situation.  Eve needs to remake her life.

“It was strange to be alone in the middle of her life, when she’d least expected it.  Of course she should have been prepared — this happened to women all over TV and in magazines, to women in her own neighborhood.  How embarrassing to be a fool in the face of the world.”

“Home Repair” is the first novel written for an adult readership by Liz Rosenberg , who has more than thirty books to her credit.  Her poetry has appeared in many books and journals and includes a work of prose poems called “These Happy Eyes”, and she has edited several anthologies of poetry.  Liz Rosenberg is also the author of a score of books for children, and Eve’s children play a well-observed role in “Home Repair”.  Dr. Rosenberg is a professor of English and creative writing at Binghamton University, her work has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and the Paris Review and she writes a book review column for the Boston Globe.  Her first husband was the novelist John Gardner.

Liz Rosenberg joins Bill Jaker on OFF THE PAGE to tell about writing “Home Repair” and her other literary activity, including her newest children’s book, “I Did It Anyway”.

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