"A general contractor and author looks back on a 35-year career contending with a variety of houses and people—most in disrepair. The many blue-collar jobs that Cottonwood wonderfully describes in his latest offering may involve worm-gear saws, ladders, lighting fixtures and the like, but they’re really all about people. Some are wealthy, some poor, but all are frail in some way and in need of some proper shoring—that includes the ace carpenter himself. Each vignette confidently stands on its own, whether several pages long or only a few paragraphs. The robust snapshots of the carpenter’s working life toiling in crawl spaces and basements play on important themes of mortality, class and personal fulfillment. Elegant entries touch on the often ephemeral nature of close human relationships. Expertly crafted narrative nonfiction that reveals the framework of people’s lives."
—Kirkus starred review.
"A gritty and entertaining memoir. Colorful characters and situations. Cottonwood’s prose is lively and his stories often charming. Readers will find it easy to relate to the author and his experiences, which are likely to appeal to anyone who has worked a less-than-perfect job."
"An intelligent, well-rounded and thoughtful man who’s worked with his hands, his brain and his heart for decades. The essays are almost prose poems in a few deftly chosen words with a master’s skill. He has a gift for those little details that make a scene intensely vivid – his descriptions, whether of a person or a landscape, are brilliant. Essay-writing at its best - great gift."
—IndieReader Discovery Award, 2014
"This is a delightful book, full of engaging stories about work and working life. It is humane and warmly funny."
—Mike Rose, author of The Mind at Work.
"With an Ian Frazier-like sense of humor, general contractor and author Joe Cottonwood reveals a lot about human nature via the sometimes short-lived, sometimes years-long relationships he forms with those who hire him. Each tale about walking into someone’s house, negotiating a price, completing the job, obtaining payment, reveals another world. Flooded with detail of Cottonwood’s work (noting the durability of a spider web, getting a face full of sewage, falling off a roof), it’s a well-written voyeur’s delight."
—Karen Schechner, judge's comment for IndieReader Discovery Award
“A house is alive. It breathes. It expands and contracts. It ages. Sometimes it falls sick, and then I’m a doctor of houses. I probe intimate cavities. I study the bones, the nerves, the flesh of an old house where generations of remodels have built upon themselves. The structure tells a story: tragedy, comedy, or heartwarming family drama as day-to-day life slowly, inexorably leaves an imprint over the attic, on the walls, under the sink—or in the crawlspace.”
—From 99 Jobs
Ninety-nine stories that are gritty, funny, wise. And always deeply humane.
Print edition available now from Clear Heart Books (fulfilled by Amazon). Order on-line with this link. Or order the good old-fashioned way — through your local bookstore.
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