Rise: How A House Built A Family by Cara Brookins

After escaping an abusive marriage, Cara Brookins had four children to provide for and no one to turn to but herself. In desperate need of a home but without the means to buy one, she did something incredible.

Equipped only with YouTube instructional videos, a small bank loan, a mile-wide stubborn streak, Cara built her own house from the foundation up with a work crew made up of her four children.

It would be the hardest thing she had ever done. With no experience nailing together anything bigger than a bookshelf, she and her kids poured concrete, framed the walls and laid bricks for their two story, five bedroom house. She had convinced herself that if they could build a house, they could rebuild their broken family.

This must-read memoir traces one family’s rise from battered victims to stronger, better versions of themselves, all through one extraordinary do-it-yourself project.


Song For This Book: To Build A House by Cinematic Orchestra
Why? Never has a song been more perfect for a book.


I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rise follows the story of Cara Brookins, both past and present. Her previous marriages have been rough, with one mentally ill and one abusive, leaving her with four children to single handedly raise, while trying to bridge the gap between difficult home situations and normal life.During a weekend away, the family builds a stick house out of what they can find around them and subsequently decide to build a real-life version. The only drawback is that neither Cara nor her four children know anything about building a house.

I spent the vast majority of this book thinking that this woman was insane. Building a house with youtube, google, some random encounters, and four kids? How do you even do that? But I think that’s the beauty of this memoir. It was an impossible task that Brookins took in her hands and made into something possible. It’s an amazing story for perseverance, determination, and family.

The Good Points of Rise: How A House Built A Family:

I loved the way that Brookins told her story. It reads like a work of fiction that’s so easy to get lost in, and I had to keep reminding myself that this really happened. Brookins has a real way with words, and she tells her story beautifully.

I liked the way that the past and present stories were split up into Rise and Fall chapters. It made it easy to keep track of which points in time you were getting into, and the way she alternated keeps you hooked, desperate to know what is coming next.

Brookins doesn’t cast the characters in her life as good or bad or anything really. She talks about loving her children, about her ex-husbands’ abusiveness and mental illness, and about the opportunities and challenges that they all face. But she doesn’t say ‘this one is good’ or ‘this person is awful’. She just tells her story, and it’s impressive that she was able to take such an objective point of view.

The Downsides of Rise: How A House Built A Family:

The chapters were divided between Rise and Fall, which helped keep things straight, but it would have been nice to have dates to relate to when things were happening. Even if it wasn’t specific days or years, X number of days on the project, or X number of years before the house would have made it easier to keep track of everything.

I found the spiritual characters of Caroline and Benjamin confusing. I’m not sure what purpose they served in the whole project, and they just seemed out of place. But maybe that sort of thing is just not for me.

All in all, this memoir is a fantastic read, and will inspire you to take on all of those challenges and difficult projects that you’ve been dreaming about for so long. I’d been hesitant to take on this book for review, because it’s so out of the realm of what I typically read, but I am so glad I did. Brookins is an amazing woman, and I am so glad to have gotten the chance to hear about her incredible story.


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