Synopses & Reviews
Warren Ziller moved his family to Southern 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 the 1980s. But the Zillers' American dream is about to be rudely interrupted.
Warren has squandered their savings on a bad real estate investment, which he conceals from his wife, Camille, who misreads his secrecy as a sign of an affair. Their children, Dustin, Lyle, and Jonas, have grown as distant as satellites, too busy with their own betrayals and rebellions to notice their parents' distress. When tragedy strikes, the Zillers are forced to move to Warren's abandoned housing development in the desert. In this comically bleak new 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.
With penetrating insights into modern life and an uncanny eye for everyday absurdities, Eric Puchner delivers a wildly funny, heartbreaking, and thoroughly original portrait of an American family.
"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.)
"Family love flickers capriciously throughout this fine domestic drama, which runs the gamut from hilarious to harrowing....A wild first novel that amply confirms the promise of Puchner's story collection..." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"[O]ne of the funniest and truest books published in years....Puchner's tale points out the inherently transitory nature of the family. Children become adults, adults grow apart. But in spite of — or because of — its transitory nature, this love story is even more precious." The Oregonian
"[A]ll the Zillers come so alive that as a reader, I felt so deeply for them that the book became almost excruciating to read....I'm still trying to recover from reading about the pathos of the Zillers, which thanks to the fine talent of Erich Puchner I will remember for quite a long while." Alan Cheuse, The Chicago Tribune
"Puchner is an extraordinarily talented writer. He's a master of mood and tone, able to make moments of pure hilarity follow heartbreak with the seamlessness of real life. And every character is perfectly realized....This book deftly captures the '80s, a decade of illusory wealth, tawdry spectacle, and willful innocence — which also makes it the perfect novel for our time." The Boston Globe
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.
About the Author
Eric Puchner is an assistant professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College. He has received a Pushcart Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts grant. His short story collection Music Through the Floor was a finalist for the NY Public Library's Young Lions Award. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, novelist Katharine Noel, and their children.