Sunday, January 22, 2017

Rise: How a House Built a Family, by Cara Brookins

Cara Brookins and her young children rose from being victims of terrible domestic abuse by building their own beautiful home. Relying on YouTube DIY videos, they built a sanctuary, called Inkwell Manor, one concrete block and one piece of plywood at a time, without the help of a building contractor. Cara tells their story in her memoir, "Rise."

Her family had been the victims of two domestic abusers, both ex-husbands. One, Adam, a paranoid-schizophrenic, who, despite a divorce, and restraining orders, still managed to terrify the family by making death threats, chasing their car, torturing their dog, rearranging furniture and leaving psychotic messages. The second man, Matt, had subjected Cara to frequent violent, life-threatening rages and, as most batterers do, blamed Cara for his rages.

Cara describes the abuse in chapters interspersed with others describing the building of the house. At first, the lack of chronological order was a little confusing. Nonetheless, since Cara's story is not linear, the way she unfolds it makes sense. Her family had been deeply scarred by the abuse. Removing the abusers from their life did not, by itself, remove the fear or the scars. Building their house together, however, as rough and exhausting as it was, helped to exorcise the bad experiences. Indeed, placing the abuse stories between chapters describing the building of their home seems akin to burning sage in a new house to remove bad karma.

During the build, the family's transformation from victims to joyful house builders was not without humor. Astonished to learn that a neighbor could save them days of work by cutting out the windows and doors with a chainsaw, Cara writes: "Five minutes later, he fired up his chain saw in my bedroom. I shook my head: There’s a thing not every girl can say with a straight face."

At the end of the day, Cara's memoir makes clear that she and her children dealt head on with the many hardships and obstacles that came their way, and they succeeded in a task that many thought was impossible, they built themselves a home.

(I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (January 24, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250095662

Cara Brookins in the library she and her children built.

Inkwell Manor