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Town House: A Novel

Town House: A Novel

3.5 6
by Tish Cohen

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Jack Madigan should be leading an enviable life. He’s the sole heir of a ’70s rock icon. He lives with his retro-obsessed teenage son, Harlan, in a once-magnificent Boston town house. But now 36, Jack’s painting career is buckling under a raging case of agoraphobia. And when the foreclosure notice arrives, Jack must face losing the only home


Jack Madigan should be leading an enviable life. He’s the sole heir of a ’70s rock icon. He lives with his retro-obsessed teenage son, Harlan, in a once-magnificent Boston town house. But now 36, Jack’s painting career is buckling under a raging case of agoraphobia. And when the foreclosure notice arrives, Jack must face losing the only home he’s ever known—and his only safe zone. When Jack’s ex-wife announces that Harlan would be better off living with her and her vitamin-enriched fiancé, Jack has to figure out how to deter the perky, inexperienced real-estate agent, hold on to his house, keep his son at home, and—through the tenacity of the little girl next door—finally step out onto the sidewalk.

Fox 2000 swooped in to pre-empt the film rights while Town House was still on submission to publishers. Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions is set to produce the movie and Pulitzer Prize-winning screenwriter Doug Wright (Memoirs of a Geisha) is adapting the screenplay. A book with the ability to both entertain and move us, Town House is a smart, acerbic novel bursting with heart and quirky charm.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

An agoraphobe fights to save his house, his son and his sanity in Cohen's comic, big screen–ready debut. Jack Madigan has sequestered himself for most of his adult life in a decaying Boston townhouse along with his so-uncool-he's-cool son, Harlan; a one-eyed, one-eared cat; and, until she left, his wife Penelope. Jack is content to pursue his raison d'être of creating the perfect shade of white interior paint, but the outside world comes crashing in: Jack's income—royalties from dead rock star dad Baz (think: Ozzy Osbourne cut down in his prime by a snapping turtle)—dries up; Penelope wants Harlan to move to L.A. and live with her; the plucky, precocious, ankle-biting (really) girl next door keeps showing up in Jack's house; and Dorrie, a lovable dingbat realtor, swoops in to sell the townhouse (valued at $4.5 mil). Love blossoms, neuroses are zapped and an 11th-hour discovery saves the day. If it sounds formulaic, it is, but it's also terrifically written; Cohen's affinity for her nut-job characters is infectious and will keep readers involved as the plot reaches its peachy end. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Barbara Delinsky
“TOWN HOUSE is a poignant, acerbic and charming novel with real heart. Make room on your bookshelf for Tish Cohen.”
Rex Pickett
“...sardonically comic and humanly poignant.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt

Town House

Chapter One

He Bangs

Jack Madigan squeezed his eyes shut. Hard. He wasn't going to cry over this. There were exactly three events in his thirty-six-year-old memory that had brought him to tears, typically life-splintering events: such as his father dying on him while he was away at a sleepover; his son, Harlan, bursting—squalling and bawling—out of the womb and into his heart; and his ex-wife sashaying out the front door of the old Boston town house and wishing Jack a good life.

She'd forgotten the tweezers.

Sucking back a fortifying breath, Jack trapped another hair between the pincers and yanked. Shit! Tears streamed down his cheeks. He wiped his face with his palm and peered into the mirror. His brows looked worse than before he started. The left brow ended way too early and the right one bulged in the middle like a python digesting a mole. The photo in the magazine sure didn't look like this. Checking the instructions again, he ripped away at the right brow until the gastric-wrapped mole looked more like a supine mouse.

Leaning on the huge porcelain bathroom sink, he pushed his face closer to the mirror. Eyebrow hairs probably grew back slowly. It would be his luck. If they grew back at all. He tugged at his dark hair until wet bangs carpeted his forehead, masking what was left of his brows. Looked a bit strange, but it would have to do. Eyebrows stinging, stomach grumbling, he reached down to tighten the towel tied around his narrow hips before hurling the tweezers and the magazine at the metal trash can.

He hadn't set out to pluck his brows this particular Wednesdayevening in November. It was all Harlan's fault.

Teenage hormones being what they were, Harlan's eyes were foolishly affixed to a blonde on a passing bus when they should have been doing what eyes were designed for—scanning oncoming terrain for hazards, like uncovered manholes and wolves. And while it wasn't a manhole or a wolf that got him, the puddle was, apparently, sufficiently deep and murky as to necessitate a thorough cleanup once Harlan finally found his way home.

And teenage hormones being what they were, Harlan's shower went on far too long. So long that his friends—Stevie, Kirk, and three girls with wholly forgettable names, having stopped by to pick him up for a night of unintelligible conversation and untold attempts to sneak into local bars—were forced to choose between polite chat with Jack in the living room and a Glamour magazine fortuitously pulled from someone's purse.

The magazine won.

Jack never would have dreamed of flipping through it after Courtney or Brittany or whoever left it behind. For one thing, it was nearly seven thirty, and he hadn't yet had dinner. For another, a guy his age trolling through Glamour was just plain creepy. But it was just lying there on his favorite chair, folded open to an article titled "Five Surefire Signs He'll Suck in Bed."

How could he not check . . . just to be sure?

And there it was. Surefire sign number four. "Scraggle Brows. A guy who doesn't clean his house upstairs won't be keen on polishing your silver downstairs, so to speak."

If there was one thing Jack wasn't going to be accused of, it was having a complete and utter disregard for tending to the silver.

Peering into the old Frigidaire, head bopping to the Clash's "London Calling" thundering from the living room, Jack smiled. One heaping helping of Monday's tuna casserole had somehow escaped Harlan's wolfish eye.

The sun had all but set, leaving blackened, cut-out profiles of nineteenth-century Beacon Hill town homes nestled up to office towers against a sky muddy with navy, purple, and red. Jack spun away from the fridge, chipped plate in hand, and kicked the door shut with his foot. Harlan would be out for hours. And by the time he returned, he'd have murdered a pizza or several, and would have no interest in digging up two-day-old leftovers.

By the time the sky had completely inked over, candlelight danced on the refrigerator door, Pinot breathed in a chipped scotch glass, Elvis Costello crooned from the front room, and Jack's perfectly heated leftovers begged to be devoured. He sampled the first bite and closed his eyes. Impossible. The casserole got more delectable by the day.

When he opened his eyes, another set of eyes stared back at him. Well, one eye, anyway. Mrs. Brady, Harlan's childhood pet—a morose, one-eared, one-eyed beast of a tomcat acquired during Harlan's fifth year—sat on the opposite chair.

Like Jack's date.

The animal stared at Jack's forehead. Sadly aware he was primping for a cat, Jack smoothed his bangs. "What are you looking at?"

Mrs. Brady blinked back what appeared to be a smirk.

"Like you're so much better? Get down, phsst," Jack hissed and tried to wave the cat away. Was it too much to want to eat a meal in peace? Mrs. Brady didn't budge. Instead, a low, guttural moan emanated from somewhere between his throat and his feet.

"Go on now. You've been fed." Jack had reminded Harlan six or seven times before he'd left.

The cat blinked again and glanced down at the tuna.

"You heard me."

Mrs. Brady licked his lips and groaned.

The animal hadn't paid this much attention to Jack since he'd had his stitches removed after the great snowplow incident of '99. And even then, only to rake apart Jack's flesh as he held the beast still for the vet. Jack let out a long breath. Clearly, the cat hadn't been fed. Pushing back his chair, Jack crossed the room and opened the cupboard, hunting for a can of Pretty Kitty cat food.


He checked the fridge. No cat food and, worse, no reasonable substitutions. The cat wasn't going to appreciate limp broccoli, expired hummus, or strawberry-flavored applesauce with no artificial sweeteners. Jack closed the door and paused. Harlan. He could pick up some cat food from the variety store. It wouldn't be Pretty Kitty, but Mrs. Brady would just have to deal.

Town House. Copyright © by Tish Cohen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

TISH COHEN is the author of both YA and adult novels, including The Truth About Delilah Blue, Inside Out Girl and Town House. The latter two have been optioned for film. Visit her online at tishcohen.com and on Twitter @TishCohen.

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Town House 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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donnareads911 More than 1 year ago
This book is a light and easy read, and can fill up a boring rainy. Not a complicated story, and not a lot of complex characters. Would probably appeal to someone who has a crush on old rock stars. This one I'd check out from my local library.