No Place Like Home: A Memoir in 39 Apartments by Brooke Berman (Harmony Books, $23.00, 251 pages)
“There are so many times I have asked the question: Am I home?“
This is a fun one that will remind adult readers of the struggling times in their twenties, looking for stability, romance and a place that feels like home. Brooke Berman tells about her period as a struggling young playwright and writer in Manhattan and Brooklyn during the period from 1998 through the summer of 2002. It was in these years that the chronically penniless Berman lived in 39 different apartments.
One thing that’s entertaining about this memoir is learning about the language of real estate in New York City. There are terms like floor-through apartments, couch-surf, railroad flat (I once lived in one in Los Angeles) and 420 friendly. OK, the latter term is not actually mentioned by Berman but she made apartment shopping in Manhattan and Brooklyn sound so interesting that I came upon the term online.
Note: 420 friendly means that one’s prospective roommates smoke pot and want their new tenant to be cool with that.
There’s also the reminder of what it’s like to be without money among people of prosperity. Part of the experience, for Berman, is a good one: “When I’m struggling, I know what to do and who to be: I don’t spend money… When I have money, I am forced to make choices.” I recall a friend who in college said, “I feel pure when, as a struggling student, I have no money. It feels better than when I do have money and I feel like I’ve done something wrong.”
But because Berman was raised by a stylish mother in the fashion industry in Michigan, she also knows how far she’s fallen…
“I was the only eight-year-old in the Detroit suburbs who could speak on Giorgio Armani’s fall line. …now I feel like I come more from Avenue A. From the poppy-seed cafe and dance workshops, downtown sublets and unmatched clothes, care of Salvation Armani.”
That should give you a hint of Berman’s humor which is laced through more serious things. During this period she seems to be extremely unlucky in love, always choosing the guy who’s exactly wrong for her. It’s as if she has a personal radar system for finding Not the Right Guy or Mr. Wrong. There’s also the fact of having to deal with her mother’s illness and apparent demise after not one but two kidney transplant operations: “My mother’s death is the thing I have been most afraid of my entire life… The fear of (her) death is more threatening to me, and more primal, than anything.”
Brooke’s mother’s illness seems to stand as a symbol of the things that have gone wrong in Brooke’s life: “I want to feel better, too.”
While this is an engaging memoir, it does have one disturbing flaw. Like Julie Metz in her memoir Perfection, Berman tells us far more about her sex life (with whom she did what, and exactly what) than we’d care to know. Too much information, girl, way too much. Is there some type of anti-privacy virus going around that makes people disclose everyone they’ve gotten next to in their lives?
And, yet, the true tale ends with Berman living happily ever after in perfect city abodes, with the perfect “forever” partner and the long dreamt of career. Who says that modern fairy tales don’t come true?
“To deny change is to deny life. And the present moment contains miracles. …I can say now that I have many homes.”
A review copy was received from the publisher. Thanks to Elaine at Wink Public Relations (wink pr) for her assistance.