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Book Review

July 26, 2012
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‘Sugarhouse: Turning the Neighborhood Crack House into Our Home Sweet Home’

Courtesy of Beaverdale Books

Review by Barb Palar

By Matthew Batt

Mariner Books



272 pp

Matthew Batt is a fresh new voice in literature and his new memoir, “Sugarhouse,” should appeal to anyone, young or old, who has endured the joy and pain of choosing a first home. Batt’s funny and self-deprecating wit no doubt carry him through life, as the narrative of this story follows a young couple who go about saving their marriage in a way that many wouldn’t dare — by buying a fixer upper in Salt Lake City. First though, he and his wife Jenae, make some decisions.“We’re throwing out the old carpet/litter box, the avocado stove, refrigerator, the asbestos-flavored, paisley-patterned linoleum and the imitation knotty pine glued-on veneer walls…” You get the picture.

In buying their home, Matthew and Jenae are putting a foundation under their life together while their friends and extended families are falling apart. Matt’s grandfather has taken up with multiple women just weeks after the death of his wife, and Jenae’s well-meaning family travel from Nebraska to help with the big move, but can’t understand how they ended up with the dump that they did. They were, after all, expecting a castle, since their own home in rural Nebraska was valued at $30,000 and “the only reason to spend a hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a twelve-row combine or a clone of Tom Osborne.”

Batt brilliantly captures the other characters in his tale including the fast-talking shyster realtor Sully, “a six-foot-three Teutonic blond who would look as convincing in drag as he would an SS uniform.” While “Sugarhouse” is about a house and the foundation the young couple is laying, it’s really about their relationships to each other, to their friends, family and to the world around them. CV

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