Gimme Shelter

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Simon and Schuster, Mar 3, 2009 - Social Science - 320 pages
4 Reviews
"Of course I want a home," writes Mary Elizabeth Williams, "I'm American." Gimme Shelter is the first book to reveal how this primal desire, "encoded into our cultural DNA," drove our nation to extremes, from the heights of an unprecedented housing boom to the depths of an unparalleled crash.

As a writer and parent in New York City, Williams is careful to ground her real-estate dreams in the reality of her middle-class bank account. Yet as a person who knows no other way to fall in love than at first sight, her relationship with the nation's most daunting housing market is a passionate one. Williams's house-hunting fantasy quickly morphs into a test of endurance, as her search for a place to live and a mortgage she can afford stretches into a three-year odyssey that takes her to the farthest reaches of the boroughs and the limits of her own patience.

"Welcome to the tracks," she declares at the outset of yet another weekend tour of blindingly bad, wildly overpriced properties. "Let's go to the wrong side of them, shall we?" As her own quest unfolds, Williams simultaneously reports on the housing markets nationwide. Friends and family members grapple with real estate agents and lenders, neighborhood and quality-of-life issues, all the while voicing common concerns, as expressed by this Maryland working parent of three: "The market was so hot, there were no houses. We looked for years at places the owners wouldn't even clean, let alone fix up."

How frustrating is the process? Williams likens it to hearing "the opening bars of a song you think is 'Super Freak.' And then it turns out to be 'U Can't Touch This.'" Told in an engaging blend of factfinding and memoir, Gimme Shelter charts the course of the real estate bubble as it floated ever upward, not with faceless numbers and documents but with the details of countless personal stories -- about the undeniable urge to put down roots and the lengths to which we'll go to find our way home.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - librarybrandy - LibraryThing

As memoirs go, this is a pretty light read about a startlingly familiar situation. I'm not up to house-hunting just yet, though I'm aware of the prices, but I am still an apartment-dweller and I move ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mjgrogan - LibraryThing

It seems that the best way for me to add my increasingly devalued two cents for this one is in the form of a brief response to Lexi’s recent review. Lame certainly, but I’m tired and my mother’s the ... Read full review


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She Stoops to Conquer
Are We There Yet?
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The Rate Stuff
Into the Woods
Where the Heart Is

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About the author (2009)

Mary Elizabeth Williams is the cultural critic for Public Radio InternationalŐs morning news show, The Takeaway, and a regular contributor to She has written for many publications including The New York Times, The New York Observer, and Parents. She has appeared on Court TV and has lectured on journalism and community at New York University and Columbia University. She lives in New York City.

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