Confessions of a Contractor by Richard Murphy

Harry Sullivan reads renovations the way a fortune teller reads tea leaves: he can predict the course of your marriage by the tiles you’ve chosen for the master bath. At the end of a project, when he has been part of your family and had access to your most intimate spaces, he knows more about you than anyone else. In Confessions of a Contractor, Harry learns some of these same lessons about his own life.

Harry came to L.A. as a young man with a dream – not to act or direct or write, but to work on houses. He has made a name for himself in the world of home renovation and he has learned some hard lessons about the work and the people who hire him. He has learned to avoid House Virgins. He has advice for people about working with contractors (the catastrophic leak in your master bathroom can be traced directly back to the fight you picked with your plumber). He has rules for choosing clients, but under the right circumstances, he is willing to break them.

Rebecca Paulson has been dumped by her contractor and she needs help. Harry knows it’s a bad idea, but he takes the job anyway. He finds out just how bad an idea it is when he discovers that his current client-with-benefits, Sally Stein, used to be a good friend of Rebecca’s. They had a falling out under mysterious circumstances and, as he finds himself being drawn to Rebecca, Harry just can’t leave well enough alone.

The writing in Confessions of a Contractor is lovely; I kept going back to phrases I wanted to read over and over in my head. There is enough information on the renovation business to illuminate Murphy’s stories and metaphors, but you won’t get lost if you think “flashing” will get you arrested and you can’t tell blue board from drywall.

There is a story on the surface here – Harry and Rebecca and Sally – as well as a story underneath. Harry is dealing with his past – his father, his last girlfriend, even his fear of a being a homeowner. The story of the wood his father collected and the way Harry finally came to terms with it made me think about all the things he learned over the course of the summer, and the ways he was finally able to shake off the past and move confidently forward. It was interesting to look at people through the lens that Harry provides, seeing all the things that their homes and their projects have to say about them. He has a habit of stopping the story to tell stories or talk about contracting and these asides are always great fun. I will be recommending this one to friends and family.

Confessions of a Contractor is brand new – just released this week. My copy was the Advanced Reader version; you can order your copy at

Author Sighting! Richard Murphy will be appearing at my favorite local bookstore for a book signing next week. Have you read Confessions of a Contractor? Do you have a question you’d like me to ask? Check the comments after this review for details on his appearance and let me know what you would ask.

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