November/December Pick 2011

Model Home by Eric Puchner
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A tender and funny portrait of an unraveling family from the award-winning and critically acclaimed author of Music Through the Floor.

Warren Ziller moved his family to 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 Southern California in the 80s.But his American dream has been rudely interrupted.  Despite their affection for each other, Warren, his wife Camille, and their three children have veered into separate lives, as distant as satellites.  Worst of all, Warren has squandered the family’s money on a failing real estate venture.

When tragedy strikes, the Zillers are forced to move to one of the houses in Warren’s abandoned development in the middle of the desert. Marooned in a less-than-model 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 them together.  Subtly ambitious, brimming with the humor and unpredictability of life, Model Home delivers penetrating insights into the American family and into the imperfect ways we try to connect, from a writer “uncannily in tune with the heartbreak and absurdity of domestic life” (Los Angeles Times).

About The Author

Eric Puchner is the author of the novel, Model Home and the short story collection, Music Through the Floor , which was a finalist for the NY Public Library’s Young Lions Award.

His short stories have appeared in Zoetrope: All Story, Chicago Tribune, The Sun, The Missouri Review, Best New American Voices, and many other journals and anthologies.

A recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts grant, he is an assistant professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, novelist Katharine Noel, and their daughter.


"To read Eric Puchner's debut novel, Model Home, is to watch in fascinated dismay the unraveling of a family . . . Puchner has brought to bear his primary gifts as a storyteller: startling language and the accretion of memorable scenes . . . he deploys in exactly the right measure the element of dreams: those he visits upon his characters and the one he implodes before the reader's gaze." Read the full review.
San Francisco Chronicle

"The only conclusion to come to after reading this novel is that Eric Puchner is a massive talent who has already hit his stride. . . funny and sad, each character is perfectly drawn and deeply interesting. Go read this book."

"Puchner's prose is forthright, delightfully detailed and the distance he strikes from his characters seems just right: not so close that we can't see them in social context, not so far that we don't feel for them deeply in their distress . . . I'm still trying to recover from reading about the Zillers, Dustin's family, and maybe my family and maybe yours too."
–Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered

"Puchner is a tender, humane observer of family life, and his lithe prose deepens our understanding of his characters . . . the writing is attuned and specific . . . the image of the Zillers as the sole survivors of a disaster is affecting, and subtly suggests our contemporary situation."
New York Times Book Review

"A clever send-up of the Reagan-era's Morning in America mentality...wrenching...Puchner's well-constructed tale of a house of pain built on a foundation of secrets echoes Updike."
People (four stars)

"This fine domestic drama...runs the gamut from hilarious to harrowing. A wild first novel that amply confirms the promise of Puchner's story collection, Music Through the Floor."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[A] heartrending first novel…With careful attention to nuanced and fractured perspectives, Puchner teases a fragile beauty out of the loneliness that separates the members of this family."
Publisher's Weekly (starred review)