Cottage for Sale, Must Be Moved Review
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Suppose you live and work alone in a tiny, one-bedroom home on Cape Cod. Suppose you hope to expand your home but you don’t really want to start from scratch. Suppose you see this ad in the local paper: “Cottages for sale, $3,000 each, must be moved.”

Kate Whouley, in her delightful new memoir, Cottage for Sale, Must be Moved, is just the type of person to ask, Why not?

Whouley’s book is a detailed account of her inventive home expansion that goes far beyond a script for an episode of This Old House. While there is more than enough fun construction and destruction detail to satisfy even the most ardent hammer-and-nail enthusiast, that’s not the real point of the book. In taking readers through the her cottage’s move across Cape Cod to be joined to her home, Whouley takes us on an even more interesting journey. She guides us through her own life--a life rich in family, friends (including one of American literature’s most interesting cats), challenges, and personal growth and satisfaction.

In the first half of the book, we mostly get to know the intricacies of planning and implementing her cottage project. While we get a few hints at who Whouley and her friends are, we get a great deal more about construction crews, building movers, and town bureaucracy. This is great stuff, no question, but the second half of the book delves more deeply into the people involved in Whouley’s project.

As the house expansion takes shape, the people come into greater focus as well. As nails are driven and walls painted, the men holding the hammers and brushes emerge into fuller clarity and complexity. In particular, we learn much more about Whouley herself as she lets us deeper into her unique life, agile mind, and generous heart.

In the last few chapters, we see not only the complete house, but a complete person as well. The last forty pages are as beautifully written as any novel and as revealing and rewarding as the best memoirs.

In a genre dominated by cash-cow celebrity/survival/blame memoirs, it’s a pleasure to read a terrific account of an extraordinary time in a normal life. Overall, this is a wonderful book on many different levels. It’s a great how-to (and how-not-to) guide to home improvement, a thoughtful reflection on the interconnections between human beings and the world around them, and (above all) a beautiful look deep into an exceptional person.

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