Carol Davala

Escaping the fallout of failed marriages and domestic abuse, on a weekend getaway Cara Brookins happened upon a stately home ravaged by Mother Nature. Her walk through the home’s crumbling remains became the impetus for a plan to build a new house for herself and her four children. Beyond financial necessity and the empowering prospects of tackling such a grandiose do-it-yourself project, Brookins hoped the home would help heal her fractured family.

Rise: How a House Built a Family takes readers along on a transformative journey. Brookins marks off the acre of land she has purchased with a bag of self-rising flour, then secures a bank loan. With the help of YouTube videos and a learn-as-you-go attitude, Brookins and her kids lay bricks, frame walls, integrate plumbing and build their dream. Brookins captures the process in rise and fall chapters: The rises highlight house construction, while the falls offer heart-rending memories of trauma inflicted by a schizophrenic ex-husband.

While building a five-bedroom house may not be for everyone, all readers can find inspiration in Brookins’ endeavor. In an age when few adolescents would forgo extracurricular activities, endure exhausting manual labor and accept a tool belt for Christmas, her young crew pitches in for the greater good of the family.

Perhaps 15-year-old Drew says it best when he admonishes his sister, “You built your own damn house, you can do anything.”

 

This article was originally published in the February 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Escaping the fallout of failed marriages and domestic abuse, on a weekend getaway Cara Brookins happened upon a stately home ravaged by Mother Nature. Her walk through the home’s crumbling remains became the impetus for a plan to build a new house for herself and her four children. Beyond financial necessity and the empowering prospects of tackling such a grandiose do-it-yourself project, Brookins hoped the home would help heal her fractured family.

The Salwen family lived the American Dream. Fast-track careers afforded parents Kevin and Joan a beautiful home, luxury cars, world travel and private school educations for their teenage children, Hannah and Joseph. In their affluent neighborhood, new was better and more was the norm. But one day, witnessing the sharp social contrast between a homeless man and a man driving a Mercedes, Hannah experienced a profound “aha” moment that sparked a family dialogue—one that ultimately led the Salwens to sell their Atlanta McMansion and commit half the proceeds to a worthy charity.

The resulting book, The Power of Half, is a poignant story with a powerful message about creating a new family standard that involves giving rather than taking. With today’s economic concerns, the Salwens’ book is not only timely but truly inspiring. The idea of “the power of half” is simply a point of measure to help people to gauge their giving efforts. Ideally, readers will come away from this work with a realization that we all have something to give. Whether one contributes money, time or talent, the effort is its own reward.

Through a unique roundtable dynamic that gave each family member an equal say in all project decisions, it’s clear the Salwens did more than talk the talk. They walked the walk. The Power of Half reveals some remarkable life lessons, including working templates that serve to better ourselves and the world. For this family, the effects of their project were surprisingly twofold. In choosing to help the plight of villages in Africa, the Salwens not only transformed the lives of others, but in the process they experienced several powerful transformations of their own.

The tandem writing team of father and daughter emphatically reinforces the concept of family working together. The generational blend of thoughts, ideas and energies, moving towards a common goal, is undoubtedly a mighty force. This thought-provoking read compels us to appreciate what we have. More importantly, it is an affirmation of life’s true worth, realized in our sense of self, in our commitment to family and in our efforts to leave a positive imprint on the world. The message is truly empowering.

Carol Davala is a freelance writer in Lake Wales, Florida, where, inspired by The Power of Half, she contributes to knitting projects for the charitable WarmUpAmerica organization.

The Salwen family lived the American Dream. Fast-track careers afforded parents Kevin and Joan a beautiful home, luxury cars, world travel and private school educations for their teenage children, Hannah and Joseph. In their affluent neighborhood, new was better and more was the norm. But one day, witnessing the sharp social contrast between a homeless […]

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