Synopses & Reviews
Warren Ziller moved his family to California in search of a charmed life, and to all appearances, he found it: a gated community not far from the beach, amid the affluent splendor of Southern California in the 1980s. But his American dream has been rudely interrupted. Despite their affection for one another — the slow, jokey, unrehearsed vaudeville they share at home — Warren; his wife, Camille; and their three children have veered into separate lives, as distant as satellites. Worst of all, Warren has squandered the family's money on a failing real estate venture.
As Warren desperately tries to conceal his mistake, his family begins to sow deceptions of their own. Camille attributes Warren's erratic behavior to an affair and plots her secret revenge; seventeen-year-old Dustin falls for his girlfriend's troubled younger sister; teen misanthrope Lyle begins sleeping with a security guard who works at the gatehouse; and eleven-year-old Jonas becomes strangely obsessed with a kidnapped girl.
When tragedy strikes, the Zillers are forced to move into one of the houses in Warren's abandoned development in the middle of the desert. Marooned in a less-than-model home, each must reckon with what's led them there and who's to blame — and whether they can summon the forgiveness needed to hold the family together. Subtly ambitious, brimming with the humor and unpredictability of life, Model Home delivers penetrating insights into the American family and into the imperfect ways we try to connect, from a writer uncannily in tune with the heartbreak and absurdity of domestic life. (Los Angeles Times).
"Puchner's heartrending first novel (after the collection Music Through the Floor) traces the gradual ruin of a family in the 1980s. By the time Warren Ziller's car is repossessed he tells the family it was stolen and tries to keep the family's money woes a secret he realizes he made a mistake in hauling his family from the Midwest to Southern California to get rich quick on real estate. Warren's wife, Camille, suspects her husband's squirrelly behaviour indicates he's having an affair; 11-year-old son Jonas has developed strange obsessions; 16-year-old daughter Lyle is miserable and misanthropic; and college-bound son Dustin is a handsome surfer with punk rock dreams. The unhappy family's annual camping trip inspires Warren to confess their dire financial straits, earning a momentary reprieve cut short by a natural gas explosion at their house that horribly burns Dustin. The Zillers move to one of Warren's depressing model homes and nearly fall apart until a new crisis involving Jonas creates a tenuous unity. With careful attention to nuanced and fractured perspectives, Puchner teases a fragile beauty out of the loneliness that separates the members of this family." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Eric Puchner's Model Home is 1980s California in a nutshell: bright and frantic, giddy and broke, desperate and strong and always, always moving." Daniel Handler, author of Adverbs
"Model Home is a fantastic follow up to Eric Puchner's remarkable story collection, Music Through The Floor....This is a heartbreaking yet consistently funny novel that wraps its arms around all the beauty and tragedy of the unfulfilled American dream." Stephen Elliott, author of The Adderall Diaries
"Reader, rejoice! Eric Puchner has given us a brilliant, unpretentious family saga of uncommon mastery and soul. Model Home is filled to bursting with wonderfully rendered love and heartbreak, hope and despair, triumph and travesty." Elisa Albert, author of The Book of Dahlia
The debut of an award-winning writer, Model Home is a bitterly funny, deeply moving novel about a family reckoning with failure, guilt, and love.
Eric Puchner’s Music Through the Floor
was one of the best-received story collections in years. His debut novel, a sweeping yet intimate story of the American dream in remission, viewed through the microscope of a single family, proves yet again just “how exhilarating it is to come across a young writer as technically gifted and emotionally insightful as Eric Puchner” ( The New York Times Book Review
The Zillers—Warren, Camille, and their three children—live the good life in a gated Southern California neighborhood, but the sun-bright veneer hides a starker reality. As Warren desperately tries to conceal a failing real estate venture, his family falls prey to secrets and misunderstandings, both hilarious and painful, that open fault lines in their intimacy. Their misguided attempts to recover their former closeness, or find it elsewhere, lead them into late-night burglary, improbable romance, and strange acts of betrayal. When tragedy strikes, the Zillers are forced to move to one of the houses in Warren’s abandoned development in the desert. By turns tender and disturbing, irreverent and profound, Model Home is a masterful display of Eric Puchner’s prodigious gifts and penetrating insight—both into the American family and into the imperfect ways we try to connect..
About the Author
Eric Puchner teaches at Stanford University, where he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow. His award-winning short stories have appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story, Chicago Tribune, Best New American Voices 2005, Pushcart Prize XVIII, and many more acclaimed journals and anthologies. His short story collection, Music Through the Floor, was a finalist for the NY Public Library's Young Lions Award and the California Book Award. He lives in San Francisco.