…instead of taking the easy path and buying a tract house with a manageable mortgage, Giffels gave his heartand years of his lifeto a tumbledown turn-of-the-century mansion in a city sunk under hard times. His memoir, All the Way Home, is not only a chronicle of this renovation but also an homage to Akron, Ohio, and an affirmation of his place in it.
The Washington Post
This Old Housemeets The Money Pitin journalist Giffels's search for an affordable home. The Giffels family settles on a run-down, soon to be condemned early-20th-century mansion, but when he arrives at the mansion to begin his workaided eventually by scores of workershe finds leaks in several areas of the roof, crumbling brick, dry-rotted wood, warped floors, vermin droppings and nests, as well as a beautiful old staircase, a fireplace in the bedroom and gorgeous brass hinges and other fixtures. Convinced that he can recover the former glory of this house with a little elbow grease and perseverance, Giffels sets out on his missionfueled by the strains of R.E.M. and the Clashto renovate the house one room at a time. Giffels fights a losing battle as he seeks to remove squirrels, mice and a raccoon from his abodehis attempt to scare away squirrels from the attic by using an electric guitar is especially amusingand he discovers that every victory carries with it a failure somewhere else. Sometimes humorous, Giffels's memoir comments sadly on one man's stubbornness and selfishness (even his wife's miscarriages don't stop him from his work) in his quest to make a house a home. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Those visiting Giffels's (columnist, Akron Beacon Journal) dream house often ask him if he's seen the Tom Hanks movie The Money Pit. His is an astonishingly decrepit mansion built in 1913 and last maintained in 1965. The owner remained long after that year, right until (and a little after) Giffels bought it and took possession. Giffels is an incorrigible do-it-yourselfer. Hunting for the right home for his growing family, he let no combination of rot, rust, decay, wildlife, buckling walls, gaping roofs, and assorted dilapidation sway him once he and his wife, Gina, fell in love with the past, and the potential, of his Tudor revival behemoth. Giffels's restoration adventures include a drywall finishing team whose combined résumé includes manslaughter and managing a Cyndi Lauper tour; a failed attempt to blast out squirrels with a Fender Stratocaster; the thrill of buried treasure; a touch of Akron, OH, local history; and ruminations on parenthood, loss, and love. The book ends with the birth of the Giffels's second child, but a brief afterword indicates that, ten years later, renovation continues. A funny, painful, engaging cautionary tale, warmly recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/15/08.]
Janet Ingraham Dwyer
It's the age-old story of residence against man as the author builds his dream house. Though not a structural engineer like his father, Akron Beacon Journal columnist (and former Beavis and Butt-Head writer) Giffels was seriously into the form of obsession known as do-it-yourself. The decaying old manse on North Portage Path in Akron, Ohio, was composed largely of rot, rust and mold, along with a bit of residual brick. It had all the structural integrity of a house of cards, but it boasted a billiard room. "We knew," writes the author, implicating his understanding spouse, whose second pregnancy made the move to larger quarters more urgent. "We belonged here." Of course, funny stuff ensued as ancient lath and plaster gave way to wallboard, rust yielded to pipe, openings in the roof were shingled and the shambles became a home. Giffel's untethered expectations met human limitations. It was an epic, resolute campaign against ancient wood, copper, mortar and linoleum, against soil, grout and glue, against mice, raccoons and squirrels. Walls spoke secrets, joists told tales and the rafters enclosed stories as well as resident woodland creatures. The author found a cache of antique cash and lost his favorite hammer. Reconstructing that grand old dwelling was a life-changing event and, perforce, a fount of comedy. As he doggedly stripped accretions of paint from door hinges, Giffels uncovered layers of heartfelt meaning. At last report, nearing its centenary, the place on North Portage Path is not finished. The Giffels family is in it, quite happy. The house remains, like the greater world, a place of mortality and of vitality. Life goes on. An entertaining, sometimes affecting memoir of makinga home. Agent: Daniel Greenberg/Levine Greenberg Literary Agency