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Author Luke Longstreet Sullivan has a simple way of describing his new memoir: “It’s like The Shining . . . only funnier.” And as this astonishing account reveals, the comment is accurate. Thirty Rooms to Hide In tells the story of Sullivan’s father and his descent from being one of the world’s top orthopedic surgeons at the Mayo Clinic to a man who is increasingly abusive, alcoholic, and insane, ultimately dying alone on the floor of a Georgia motel. For his wife and six sons, the years prior to his death were years of turmoil, anger, and family dysfunction; but somehow, they were also a time of real happiness for Sullivan and his five brothers, full of dark humor and much laughter.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, the six brothers had a wildly fun and thoroughly dysfunctional childhood living in a forbidding thirty-room mansion, known as the Millstone, on the outskirts of Rochester, Minnesota. The many rooms of the immense home, as well as their mother’s loving protection, allowed the Sullivan brothers to grow up as normal, mischievous boys. Against a backdrop of the times—the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, fallout shelters, JFK’s assassination, and the Beatles—the cracks in their home life and their father’s psyche continue to widen. When their mother decides to leave the Millstone and move the family across town, the Sullivan boys are able to find solace in each other and in rock ’n’ roll.
As Thirty Rooms to Hide In follows the story of the Sullivan family—at times grim, at others poignant—there is a wonderful, dark humor that lifts the narrative. Tragic, funny, and powerfully evocative of the 1950s and 1960s, Thirty Rooms to Hide In is a tale of public success and private dysfunction, personal and familial resilience, and the strange power of humor to give refuge when it is needed most, even if it can’t always provide the answers.
|Publisher:||University of Minnesota Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Luke Longstreet Sullivan is chair of the advertising department at the Savannah College of Art & Design. Born and raised in Rochester, Minnesota, he currently resides in Savannah, Georgia, with his wife and two sons.
Table of Contents
Skeletons in the Closet
Grandma Rock Sentences Everyone to Hell
Little Christians, All in a Row
Little Monsters in Every Room
Memory: Throwing Up
A Library of Her Own
Forts, Death, and Bedtime
Five O’clock Shadow
Head X-Ray: Roger in 1957
Shit Gathers in General Area of Fan
Cyclops and the Fallout Shelter
Memory: Dad Helps with Homework
Hidden Books, Hidden Letters
Fun at the Foot of the Volcano
Cause of Death: Unknown
“Spats with the Wife”
Memory: I Am “Suave Ghost”
The Alcoholic’s Guide to Ruining Evenings
Snowballs Somehow Made in Hell
Memory: I Am “Little Brother Man”
Leaving the Millstone
“We’ve Always Lived in This Castle”
Ceiling Tiles over a Psychiatrist’s Couch
Memory: I Am “Quiet Man”
Things That Were Scarier Than Dad
Memory: I Am the Fifth Beatle
Hiding in the Bathroom from Bullets
Hiding in the Tower Library
Memory: I Am the Incredible Hulk
Memory: I Am “Lonely Guy”
Eye of the Hurricane
No Help from God
Daydream: I Am “the Bullshit Police”
“Our Drummer Committed Suicide”
One Last Good Christmas
Tiny Details in Family Pictures
Daydream: I Save Dad
Meltdown in West Palm Beach
“Do I Owe You Any Money?”
The Famous Final Scene
Zee Tortured Arteest
Phone Calls from the Dead
The Mortal Coil
The Irish Flu
Sunday, July 3, 1966
Pagans in the Temple
One Last Look
Sunlight Streams through a High Window
I Believe in God Briefly
The Big Bad World
Take a Sad Song and Make It Better
This Very Room
“And Every Winter Change to Spring”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very cathartic, well written, soul purging, funny yet sad at the same time. It has a remarkable style and the old pictures, letters and diary entries are something we may never see again. Odd to say that I enjoyed the book but I did. I found it amazing these boys lived through their childhood. And their mother? She's a rock. Substance addiction is an awful illness. The author did find a lot of good in all the bad and wrote some damn funny scenes along the way. There are always good things that come out of awful circumstances. I've been through a number of them myself (9 lives at least). The author's mixed emotions about his father are certainly understandable. I, too, have felt that way about relatives who have been raging alcoholics. The scenarios were all too familiar to me as alcoholism runs in my family. We just buried my first cousin's son who died of an Oxycontin overdose. Fortunately, I was not born with the addiction gene. I read the book on the drive to my son's therapeutic boarding school where he is currently. That, after 3.5 months in a wilderness rehab where he was basically taken by kidnappers paid by parents (us). From there he went to the therapeutic boarding school where he is doing well after 7 months of being away from home. After I finished, I left this book with my son on a visit and he donated it to the school library after he read it. Many of the kids there were addicts of some kind prior to going there. My son was not literally addicted but well on his way. The school is a school but also a 12 step program. There is no guarantee, but at least he has a chance of avoiding the life Luke described his Dad of having. Once he's home, it's up to him. The cost of intervening is financially devastating but worth it to save a life. If your kid has cancer, you get fundraisers. But no one has bake sales for the families of drug and alcohol abusers. I have to say of all the things about the book, what struck me was how utterly alone his mother was in dealing with her alcoholic and the family surrounding him. I can hardly believe she was able to do what she did with so little support of any kind. It can be an emotionally isolating and humiliating disease for families of addicts. And this book illustrates her personal struggles. I would definitely recommend 30 Rooms to Hide In.
Riveting, enjoyable and terrifying.
Sullivan does a solid job of describing the complexity of growing up in a large dysfunctional family. Well done!
Very good book, the life of a Doctor and his familly..God Bless his family...Enjoyed it as it was so locally written ..
Great book! Being the same age as the writer and growing up in Rochester Mn, I related to so many things. Our family was going thru simular experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is an engrossing, honest, intimate story of a childhood spent with a family who's father is being consumed by alcohol addiction. I have read stories of similar subject matter. What makes this book such a triumph is that it is written with a unique kindness and sense of humor. Luke Sullivan is obviously a very funny man. I mean like David Sedaris, Larry David funny. Many times while reading this book I found myself laughing out loud, and searching for a friend or family member to read a particular passage to. The stories of the Sullivan boys tearing around this giant house unobstructed by parents or consistent rules were a delight to read. Sullivan captured that ephemeral sense of what it felt like to be a boy. A boy with insecurities and admiration for his older brothers. What also shines in this book is the vivid portrayal of their mother Myra Sullivan. An educated upper middle class women trapped between an abusive husband and a society that offered little help. Sullivan does a wonderful job revealing the patriarchal boundaries suffered by women in the 1960's. In the end this book is a superb tribute to this fascinating woman. Her unending loyalty, and selfless protection of her children is a testament to the power of what it means to be a mother. I finished this book wishing I could meet this woman. Thad Spencer
This book is heart-stopping, heart breaking, and achingly funny. It is the story of six brothers and their mother living in an enormous old house doing their best to stay out of their father's way as he descends into the insanity of alcoholism. The coping mechanisms amazed me, the adventures of the boys made the parent in me cringe. I plan to buy this book in hard cover when it comes out so that friends who do not have electronic media can read it, too.
Interesting look into a family's dysfunction, yet the book gives hope to those who may have experienced a similar lifestyle. This should have been a stereotypical family of the 1960's and the mother longed for that. I'm glad the brothers had each other to go through their childhoods with, and that they all found happiness in their ahult lives.