The House of Tomorrow by Peter B0gnanni
Published by: Berkley
Published on: March 2011 (paperback)
Page Count: 368
Genre: Fiction, Literature
My Reading Format: Review copy sent by the publisher
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook
One Saturday night (technically Sunday morning), I was so very tempted to get in my car, set the GPS for Minneapolis and go. I wasn’t finished with The House of Tomorrow yet, but I so very much wanted to find Pete Bognanni and thank him. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the reality of this plan sank in pretty quickly. I never even got out of bed. That doesn’t negate the fact that I love this book. It’s my new little gem.
The House of Tomorrow tells the story of Sebastian Prendergrast, a teenage boy who has spent much of his life alone with his eccentric grandmother is a geodesic dome in Iowa. He is homeschooled on the brilliance of Nana’s hero and inspiration, R. Buckminster Fuller. While Nana and Sebastian hold paying tours of their home, it isn’t until Nana has a stroke that Sebastian experiences any meaningful interaction with other people. It is then that he meets the Whitlow family, specifically Janice Whitlow’s son Jared and daughter Meredith. No one knew it at the time, but this meeting would bring a whirlwind of chaos and punk music to everyone’s life and would ultimately show Sebastian what greatness truly means.
I have never been to Iowa, but I’ve been to Sebastian and Jared’s hometown. I’m not exactly sure how that makes sense, but the small suburb of Grand Rapids, MI where I grew up couldn’t be more similar. There were the same types of hardware stores and churches. There were the same types of parents trying to shield their children from a world that is more frightening to them than to their kids. As such, they were protecting their children from the wrong things. However, it’s only in that insular innocence that Sebastian and Jared could have been born and dreamed their great dreams. Sebastian’s near complete isolation from anything other than his grandmother and her teachings of Fuller’s philosophy allowed him to experience all that the world, as fashioned in that small Iowa town, with awkward curiosity and unexpected thrills. Jared’s family life was not nearly as stable and sterile as Sebastian’s, but he needed the innocence and pure enthusiasm Sebastian brought into their friendship to breathe life into his music. Sebastian was his willing copilot, the only person that didn’t treat him like damaged goods. As they influenced one another, the stage was set for the punk rock adventure of a lifetime.
Peter Bognanni reminds me so much of Douglas Coupland. I’m now nearly twenty years older than I was when I first read Generation X and Shampoo Planet, but The House of Tomorrow took me to that same place inside. Bognanni’s sense of humor, pacing, subject matter and tone burrowed a nest inside of me for The House of Tomorrow that only Coupland has done before. It’s the power of reading novels true to the cultural make up of the world as you see it. I hope that both Coupland and Bognanni’s work remains popular for years to come, but I believe they wrote especially for people like me. I can relate to characters in so many of the novels I’ve read, but it’s not very often where I feel that characters could relate to me. Sebastian and Jared would understand me, even with our age difference. They would intuitively know my dreams and motivations in the same way that Andy, Dag and Claire did from Generation X. Reading about cultural if not contemporary kindred spirits is a powerful experience.
When reading The House of Tomorrow, I felt such exuberance. It was this sheer joy gave me the impulse to hop in my car for a 19 hour road trip. Not long after I finished, my daughter said something about Jeff Kinney while waving her first Wimpy Kid book in the air that perfectly sums up the way I feel. Picture me holding my copy of The House of Tomorrow up high as I announce to the world, “I love Peter Bognanni! He made this book!” It is a wonderful thing that authors can inspire that same passion whether their readers are 6 or *uh hem* over decades older than 6. May we all be lucky enough to continue to discover Jeff Kinneys, Douglas Couplands and Peter Bognannis when we’re 86.
Those Who Boldly Read Before Me