Books Are Pretty

Friday, January 30, 2009

Confessions of a Contractor.

The first thing a woman needs to know about renovating a house or apartment is simple: do not, under any circumstance, sleep with your contractor, no matter what your husband or boyfriend is doing to you or not doing to you.

So begins Richard Murphy's first novel Confessions of a Contractor. Naturally, this advice is promptly ignored, but it seems like it's not the women who need the warning, it's the contractor, or rather, one contractor in particular, Henry Sullivan.

Henry has spent quite awhile in Los Angeles, building up a business renovating houses with his team, Hector and Miguel. Over the years, he has developed a personal set of ethics to keep his business successful and his nose clean. He ends up breaking these rules one fateful summer, when he begins renovating houses for two wealthy women, the gorgeous and single Sally Stein, and the unhappily married Rebecca Paulson.

He begins an affair with Sally, and wants to move the relationship closer, but as he is drawn to sad Rebecca, he begins to realize he has feelings for her, too. Henry does a little investigating to see where the source of her marital troubles are, and they begin and end with her husband Derrick, a gigantic tool who speaks to people by asking questions then answering them.

Have you exceeded my expectations? You better believe it. Would I recommend you to other people? In a heartbeat.

About ten years ago producer Robert Evans wrote his memoir, The Kid Stays in the Picture, and he recorded the audio book himself. This is exactly, exactly what he sounds like. It is beyond hilarious, and for awhile everybody in L.A. was going around imitating him. If you haven't heard it yet, I highly recommend it. Anyway, it's impossible by this point to have a character speak like this in a book and not relate it immediately to Bob Evans.

So Henry is trying to figure out why Rebecca won't leave Bob Evans, and also trying to figure out the source of discord between Sally and Rebecca, who used to be friends but aren't anymore, and in between all this he's dropping tidbits of information about the contracting industry and what you should know about home repair, sort of like a blue-collar Devil Wears Prada, and wow, this is a chick-litty book. Murphy is lucky he didn't get the legs-and-feet treatment. Maybe the cover could have been a pair of work boots perched perkily on the Hollywood sign.

I can't believe what a girly book this is, seriously. The lead character falls in love with a 41-year-old woman but may prefer another woman who is not as pretty, he sides with the women over their husbands in matters of design, he's not homophobic, he's way too interested in their friendships and fights, he likes kids, hell, he likes cats for god's sake. Although he claims to have a problem with relationships, he mostly just wants to love.

He's pushing the boundaries of the suspension of disbelief, but I'm letting him get away with it because on the subject of men who write material that caters to What Women Want, my low bar is set at Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Kimberly Elise is cruelly dumped by her cold-hearted husband and finds love with Shemar Moore, the most perfect man who ever lived.

He's intelligent, gorgeous, respectful, has the same religious values the main character has, and very much wants a permanent commitment to Elise, whose twenty year marriage has crumbled around her. In short, he is specifically written to be every woman's ultimate fantasy, and he would have been, had Perry not overplayed his hand by having Moore whisper to Elise at the end of their first date, "I just want to hold you."

I don't know about you, but give me Shemar Moore as my perfect fantasy man, and he's going to be working a little harder than that.

Mercifully, Murphy doesn't go for that "I just want to hold you" crap and has Sally Stein give him a handjob underneath the table at a dinner party. Whew!

There's really not that much more to say about Confessions of a Contractor that hasn't been covered in other chick lit books, and anyway I have the flu so I'm not totally on top of my game here, but suffice to say it follows the formula with enough insider information to spice things up. The end.

Confessions of a Contractor
by Richard Murphy
August 2008 by Putnam
Paperback, 288 pp
ISBN: 0399155074

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