READERS GUIDEThe questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Life Would be Perfect If I Lived in That House, Meghan Daum’s laugh-out-loud memoir.
IntroductionFrom the acclaimed author and columnist: a journey into the world of real estate—the true story of one woman’s “imperfect life lived among imperfect houses” and her quest for the four perfect walls to call home.
After an itinerant suburban childhood and countless moves as a grown-up—from New York City to Lincoln, Nebraska; from the Midwest to the West Coast and back—Meghan Daum was living in Los Angeles, single and in her mid-thirties and devoting obscene amounts of time not to her writing career or her dating life but to the pursuit of property: scouring Craigslist, visiting open houses, fantasizing about finding the right place for the right price. Finally, near the height of the real estate bubble, she succumbed, depleting her life’s savings to buy a nine-hundred-square-foot bungalow, with a garage that “bore a close resemblance to the ruins of Pompeii” and plumbing that “dated back to the Coolidge administration.”
From her mother’s decorating mania to her own “hidden room” dreams, Daum explores the perils and pleasures of believing that only a house can make you whole. With delicious wit and a keen eye for the absurd, she has given us a pitch-perfect, irresistible tale of playing a lifelong game of house.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Meghan Daum details her lifelong obsession with real estate and her quest for a place to call home. What does “home” mean to you? How has that meaning evolved over the years? Do you agree with Daum’s assertion that “a house is not the same as a home . . . You do not shop for a ‘home’ any more than you’d shop for a life” (pages 12–13)?
2. Daum writes, “I wanted to live on another block, in another part of town, in New York, in Paris, on the moon” (page 224). Why does Daum constantly desire to move around? How does Daum’s concept of a dream home change as she moves from New York City to Lincoln, Nebraska, and on to Los Angeles?
3. After taking the big real-estate plunge, Meghan Daum met, dated, and eventually married her now husband. Do you think there’s any sort of connection or similarity between finding a house and finding love?
4. What is it about real estate that draws such a following? Why are so many Americans so obsessed with the size, location, and style of their home? Do you think there’s a deeper meaning to this fixation?
5. Meghan Daum writes about the trappings of class and her mother’s transformation from a childhood in a nondescript house with no art on the walls and no books on the shelves to a Tudor-style, House & Garden–worthy duplex with Sondheim music streaming through the Bose stereo. How does class manifest itself in Daum’s real estate aspirations?
6. What draws you in to Daum’s search for a house? Do any of the details about her search resonate with your own experiences?
7. Daum dreams of New York city penthouses, sun-drenched “classic sixes,” and cavernous brownstones. How are dream homes defined in your community? What is your dream home?
8. How does this memoir change the way you think about house-hunting?
9. How do you think Meghan Daum was changed by the experience of writing about her search for a home?
10. Do you think the surge in decorating shows (like those on HGTV), magazines, and blogs is a sign of a larger cultural movement? Do you think the real estate market crash will have any impact on the drive to own bigger, grander homes?
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