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BookConfessions of a Contractor by Richard Murphy

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Furnished by: Shelf Awareness newsletter banner ad

On Sale Date: August 2008

Publisher’s Description: “A sexy, page-turning novel about the combustible mix that results when you blend desire, jealousy, and home renovation—written by a successful screenwriter and former contractor.

Henry Sullivan has spent fifteen years renovating houses for wealthy women in Los Angeles. To distance himself from his clients and the intimate environments he works in, Henry has devised a set of rules to keep out of trouble. Over the course of one very complicated summer, Henry begins breaking those rules after he takes on the houses and the lives of two very different women who used to be friends. Henry falls for both of them, and quickly finds himself erecting an emotional house of cards as he attempts to complete both jobs while piecing together the mysterious events that ended the women’s friendship. Confessions of a Contractor breaks new ground, knocking down the walls of the American home, giving the reader an insightful look into the way people behave behind closed doors—and the secrets they shelter within. Candid, amusing, and hugely entertaining, this novel reveals that a good contractor can fix just about any home, but no contractor will ever be able to fix a homeowner.”

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)

Review: This really isn’t a typical read for me — I’m not the type to read novels about romance or sordid affairs. However, the description for Confessions of a Contractor, for some reason, enticed me and I went ahead and requested it. After I flew through the book in 3 days, I find that it’s one of the few novels that leaves me with a sense of sorrow at the end — not because of the subject matter, but for the pure fact that the book was over.

The book itself seems to know that its subject matter is absolutely perfect for the time in which it’s being published. While the housing market is currently in a slump, house flipping and re-decorating shows are still among the most watched in the country — and no matter what’s going on, no one can ever resist a good story of someone’s taboo sexual escapades. This book manages to mix the two in a way that flows seamlessly, keeping the reader intellectually interested alongside the slowly growing plot that gets more scandalous with each page turn. And Murphy’s poignant and poetic way of storytelling makes this novel much more than a tale of lust and lumber.

While we seem to get to know other characters’ stories much more quickly than we do that of the narrator, he’s very likable in a vague sort of way. His voice is intelligent and witty; often sarcastic and always masculine. As the narrator and the story develop, we’re given a very insightful look into the male psyche. Another reason that this book really works is because of its honesty honed from Murphy’s real life experiences. We also find ourselves learning right along with the characters in the book; whether it’s a tip on how to handle a contractor, a home renovation secret or the realization of how the small, simple things in life really are the best.

Overall, this book is a light, fun read that still lets you pause to think occasionally and dwell on how the book echoes our own experiences. Definitely something I’d recommend for the reader who likes to use books to get away from their own realities — but not too, too far.