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How to Build a House    by Dana Reinhardt order for
How to Build a House
by Dana Reinhardt
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

How to Build a House is a story about a young woman with a stepmother and stepsisters. But, though young Harper ends up working very hard, she's no Cinderella. And, though she's angry with family members, there's nothing at all wicked about them. Harper's tale is told, through regular flashbacks, as this dedicated environmentalist heads off for a summer of teen volunteer housebuilding in Bailey, Tennessee - where a tornado wreaked havoc, destroying both lives and homes.

Harper's mother died when she was two and she was thrilled when her father's marriage to Jane gave her a new and loving family, with stepsisters Rose and Tess, and a new baby brother, Cole. For many happy years, Tess was Harper's classmate and best friend - until divorce broke up the family, and soon afterwards Harper's boyfriend Gabriel treated her badly. After all this, Harper feels she knows 'a thing or two about people whose homes have been destroyed. Their lives uprooted. Everything gone.'

In Bailey, Harper makes new friends of her workmates, especially her roommate Marisol. And when she meets the closeknit family, the Wrights, for whom they're building the house, she tells us, 'I ache, not for what they don't have. I ache for what they do have.' Skinny Teddy Wright, who's helping with the building project, is partnered with Harper, and they grow close. He brings her a peach pie his mother made for her, takes her to Graceland, and she tells him all about her family. Harper builds bridges after he urges, 'There's things you can fix and things you can't ... And I just think it's a shame to walk away from the things you can fix.'

Buiding a house for the Wrights, working with and getting to know her peers, Harper learns how to be happy again, and to find the road back home. Dana Reinhardt, author of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, has written another poignant and inspiring winner in How to Build a House - highly recommended for all ages.

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