By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager
New to the library is a nonfiction book that speaks of unbelievable determination and courage. Author Cara Brookins wrote the book to chronicle an experience she shared with her four children. Rise: How a House Built a Family is an inspirational story that you won’t want to miss.
Brookins, the mother of three children, met and married a man who appeared to be an ideal partner. He seemed to care deeply about her children, and the couple had another child sometime later. But things began to go very badly. Her husband scheduled and paid for a conference room for a presentation to which no one was invited. He repeatedly threatened his wife with murder. The children learned early to flee to their rooms and lock the doors to avoid irrational confrontations. Fearing the increasingly frightening outbursts resulting from her husband’s schizophrenia and worried about her children’s safety, Cara filed for divorce.
The dissolution of her marriage left Cara with one troublesome problem: at some point soon, she and her children would have no place to live. While the mother had a productive career, she didn’t have many resources and she also had a family for which to provide. That’s when a seemingly impossible solution occurred to her.
Why not take out a small loan and begin building a house? Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? But her plans entailed much more thought. She decided that she and the kids (ages 2-15) could do the actual building, if they had access to advice from building supply staff and if they studied YouTube videos that demonstrated techniques.
And so, the long process began. She bought a small piece of land, and she and the kids began marking off rooms. They ordered foundation materials and enlisted help from others. This after-work and after-school project became a lasting commitment in which each had designated parts. Their projected deadlines for completion were delayed by rainy weather, warping boards, defective plumbing and routine exhaustion, but they kept struggling to complete necessary steps.
And there were other unsettling setbacks. Despite the finalization of the divorce, her husband continued to appear at the house the family would soon have to vacate and he would make eerie threats. Several times, he stalked the family until the police were called. A restraining order had little effect on his bizarre visits.
There were also other obstacles. The youngest child, who was a two-year-old, had to be kept safe around the many dangers of the family’s construction zone. The oldest son, a fifteen-year-old, lost his best friend in a car accident. Cara had the pressures of her job that had to take precedence over the construction.
In fact, one of the lowest points occurred when Cara suffered a nasty puncture wound to her leg. Shortly after that, she was struck by some falling lumber which left a serious gash over one eye. Her son took her to the emergency room where the attending physician believed Cara to be the victim of domestic abuse. When he told her his suspicions, she replied that she knew all about domestic abuse, but this instance certainly wasn’t such.
As the work continued, something remarkable began to happen. Mom and kids, all pulling together, began to get past the abuse of earlier times. In fact, they became quite independent. Any time they stumbled upon a new home-building task, they did quick studies, and each developed special talents, whether that be putting up wall board, staining cabinetry or running water lines. Perhaps the oldest son explained it best when he reflected that if you can build your own damn house, you can do anything.
Why read this book? It’s a testament to individual fortitude you won’t want to miss. Plus, the start-to-finish photographs of the project are unbelievable. You’ll want to spend some time reading about this amazing mother and her equally determined children.