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  • Writer's pictureGaili Schoen

You Only Call When You're in Trouble


I enjoyed You Only Call When You're in Trouble, by Stephen McCauley and not just because I, like most people, have relatives that are like that. I was immediately drawn into the story - aging architect Tom's dilemmas with his work, his broken relationship and his oft-troubled older sister and niece. Here is the publisher's synopsis:

"After a lifetime of taking care of his impossible but irresistible sister and his cherished niece, Tom is ready to put himself first. An architect specializing in tiny houses, he finally has an opportunity to build his masterpiece—“his last shot at leaving a footprint on the dying planet.” Assuming, that is, he can stick to his resolution to keep the demands of his needy family at bay. 
Naturally, that’s when his phone rings. His niece, Cecily—the real love of Tom’s life, as his boyfriend reminded him when moving out—is embroiled in a Title IX investigation at the college where she teaches that threatens her career and relationship. And after decades of lying, his sister wants him to help her tell Cecily the real identity of her father.  
Tom does what he’s always done—answers the call. Thus begins a journey that will change everyone’s life and demonstrate the beauty or dysfunction (or both?) of the ties that bind families together and sometimes strangle them.  
Warm, funny, and deeply moving, You Only Call When You’re in Trouble is an unforgettable showcase for Stephen McCauley’s distinctive voice and unique ability to create complex characters that jump out of the book and straight into your heart."

Tom tries to be all things to all the important people in his life, but he seems to be failing them all miserably. Most urgently, Tom is worried that his guesthouse project has fallen through, which will cause him to lose his job. And because he has given so much money away, he doesn't have enough saved to retire.

"Shaken, Tom returned to his desk and looked at the schematics for Charlotte's guesthouse. Having it be both his 'masterpiece' and his possible downfall was a confusing state of affairs. It was a small, beautiful gem."

A quick, easy read with a mostly fun ending. Releasing Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Hardcover, 336 pages, Audiobook about 12 hours.

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