Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: Home is Burning by Dan Marshall

Title: Home is Burning: A Memoir
Author: Dan Marshall
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Digital Copy
Content Alert: So. Much. Swearing. Some sex. Some illegal drug use. And a sad, slow decline ending in the death of the author's father.

Dan Marshall was a twenty-five-year-old Berkeley grad, living in LA, with a sweet job and a hot girlfriend when his father, Bob, a marathon runner who had never been sick a day in his life, was diagnosed with ALS. To complicate matters, Dan's mom, Debi, had been living with stage-four lung cancer for more than a dozen years, and she'd had a relapse and needed more chemo. So Dan and his brother Greg moved back home to take care of their parents. Home is Burning is the account of Dan's year living at home in Salt Lake City, taking care of his parents.

I would imagine that if I lived in New York or Los Angeles, seeing my city through the eyes of authors and filmmakers would become commonplace. But Salt Lake City is not a popular setting for books and movies. And when it does appear in film (like in High School Musical, it's often masquerading as someplace else). For me, the fact that Home is Burning takes place in Salt Lake made it so much more enjoyable. I could not, in good conscience, give this book a higher rating, because it seemed to operate only on the emotional levels of shock and sadness, but I really enjoyed reading it. The high school Marshall attended is Olympus, my kids' rival high school. They walk in the same canyon where I run trails, and they even stop and get drinks at Shivers, where I'm a frequent visitor at the drive-thru. At one point, Marshall named his street, and you'd better believe I opened Google Maps on my phone and, like a true creeper, found out where the street was. Turns out I run within half a block of his house at least three times a week. So the fact that the book takes place in my backyard was novel and thoroughly enjoyable. Not quite as enjoyable was the fact that Marshall is constantly referring to the damn Mormons or the f&^%ing Mormons. I know that part of his bravado was intended to show his fallibility as a character, but the fact that Marshall and his family seemed to hate the Mormons so much for I'm not sure what other than being squeaky clean Mormons got at the heart of one of the biggest tensions here in our city. I think that also made this book more important and significant as a local reader, even if it was less easy to brush off the comments because I recognize how it plays out in our city from day to day.

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