Thursday, July 2, 2009

Review: The Fixer Upper

Summary: The delightful New York Times bestselling author returns with a hilarious novel about one woman's quest to redo an old house . . . and her life.

After her boss in a high-powered Washington public relations firm is caught in a political scandal, fledgling lobbyist Dempsey Jo Killebrew is left almost broke, unemployed, and homeless. Out of options, she reluctantly accepts her father's offer to help refurbish Birdsong, the old family place he recently inherited in Guthrie, Georgia. All it will take, he tells her, is a little paint and some TLC to turn the fading Victorian mansion into a real-estate cash cow.

But, oh, is Dempsey in for a surprise when she arrives in Guthrie. "Bird Droppings" would more aptly describe the moldering Pepto Bismol–pink dump with duct-taped windows and a driveway full of junk. There's also a murderously grumpy old lady, one of Dempsey's distant relations, who has claimed squatter's rights and isn't moving out. Ever.

Furthermore, everyone in Guthrie seems to know Dempsey's business, from a smooth-talking real-estate agent to a cute lawyer who owns the local newspaper. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the pesky FBI agents who show up on Dempsey's doorstep, hoping to pry information about her ex-boss from her.

All Dempsey can do is roll up her sleeves and get to work. And before long, what started as a job of necessity somehow becomes a labor of love and, ultimately, a journey that takes her to a place she never expected—back home again.-- Harper

A few months ago, I read and reviewed DEEP DISH by Mary Kay Andrews and I thought it was a very cute novel. So I was so excited to see that she has another book coming out called THE FIXER UPPER. I couldn't wait to read it, and I am very happy to say that I really enjoyed it. In fact, I actually think I liked it even more than DEEP DISH!

Like a few of Ms. Andrews books, THE FIXER UPPER is the story of a woman who finds herself in a little trouble! Dempsey is a lobbyist who discovers that her boss (on whom she has a slight crush) has sold her down the river to save himself when it is discovered that they are involved in a political scandal. Dempsey ends up broke and unemployed, and her father decides to send her to Georgia to help him renovate and sell an old family house. They figure that by the time she turns over the house, all of the controversy will go away and she can return to Washington. Once Dempsey gets to Georgia and sees the house, she finds that the house is in terrible condition and she has more work on her hands than she ever imagined. She also discovers that a distant relative is already living there and won't leave.

I just adored this book, and I had such a wonderful time reading about Dempsey's adventures. Of course, I pretty much knew where this book was headed but it still was so much fun! I absolutely love how Dempsey not only ended up renovating the decrepit house, but she also ended up renovating her entire life. I enjoyed seeing Dempsey become empowered as she learned how to fix and repair the house; and I loved how it translated into Dempsey discovering her true self. (And it almost goes without saying that I had a huge amount of respect for her because I so could not imagine getting through anything like that!)

THE FIXER UPPER was definitely a very funny book, and I had to really laugh as Dempsey kept discovering how much was wrong with the house. I also thought her interactions with Ella Kate, her mysterious squatter, were hilarious. However, there were also some very touching and serious side stories. My heart went out to Dempsey for her naivete and I thought so much of her innocence came as a result of her relationship with her father -- she was such a daddy's girl. In addition, I knew there were reasons for Ella Kate's bitterness; and I actually felt sorry for her despite her mean treatment towards Dempsey.

It's natural that a Mary Kay Andrews book would have a little romance thrown in, and THE FIXER UPPER was no exception. I absolutely adored Dempsey's romantic interest Tee, and I found myself rooting for the success of their relationship. I also really liked how much he supported her despite her many idiosyncrasies and insecurities.

Last week, I participated in a BlogTalk Radio show with Ms. Andrews which was hosted by Virginia Stanley, Director of Library Marketing at Harper Collins. It was a fantastic interview and I thought it definitely enhanced my enjoyment of THE FIXER UPPER. I was very interested to learn that Ms. Andrews has a few things in common with the character of Dempsey in that she has actually fixed up a house and she enjoys reading decorating magazines. I also liked hearing about how much Ms. Andrews enjoys talking with book clubs about her novels.

At first I wasn't sure if I would recommend THE FIXER UPPER as a book club pick, but the more I think about it, I actually do believe it would be a great book to discuss. It's definitely a very fun book to read and perfect for the summer; and I think that many women would just love to read this and talk about it with friends. Most of the book is rather light and entertaining, but I did find that there were certainly some deeper issues such as illness and parental/child relationships that are sure to touch everyone who reads this novel. I also think a lot of Dempsey's actions could be analyzed and dissected! Since many of Ms. Andrews books have discussion guides, I'm sure there will be one availablefor THE FIXER UPPER shortly.

Check out this video of Ms. Andrews talking about THE FIXER UPPER:


Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

The Fixer Upper sounds so charming. I love books that include home renovations. Sound like you had a lot of fun reading it.

bermudaonion said...

Great review. I'm anxiously waiting for my copy of the book. I love the video and seeing the renovations in the author's home.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

I've always wanted a "fixer-upper", but I'll have to live vicariously thru Dempsey when I read the book.

The idea of finding a diamond in the rough appeals to me, but J wants it to feel like "home" the moment we walk thru the door (we're in our 4th house, so he and I have had this conversation over many house-hunting trips)

Loved the video clip, I hadn't seen it before :)

Beth F said...

Sounds very fun! We talk about fixer-uppers too because Mr. BFR is a carpenter/builder. Have you ever heard of the saying "The cobbler's kids are always barefoot"? Sigh.

Pam said...

Oh this sounds good! I need to read it, like yesterday, because Mary Kay is coming to Barnes and Noble, soon and I apparently need to go hear her read! Thanks for a great review!

Gwendolyn B. said...

I've been looking forward to this one -- good to know how much you liked it!

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I think I need to check these out. Great review.

Anonymous said...

I have read several of her books. I recieved one a few months ago from book club girl. It was deep dish as well. I was excited when I recieved this one. I am from SC and can't wait. In a few weeks she is the guest of honor at a luncheon. Can't wait. I better start cracking. I want to read this before I go. Thanks for the review. Did you know the author loves garage sales and consignment shops.