The fiction debut of the New York Times bestselling author of My Fair Lazy.
Told in the uproariously entertaining voice readers have come to expect from Jen Lancaster, If You Were Here follows Amish-zombie-teen- romance author Mia and her husband Mac (and their pets) through the alternately frustrating, exciting, terrifying-but always funny-process of buying and renovating their first home in the Chicago suburbs that John hughes's movies made famous. Along their harrowing renovation journey, Mia and Mac get caught up in various wars with the homeowners' association, meet some less-than-friendly neighbors, and are joined by a hilarious cast of supporting characters, including a celebutard ex- landlady. As they struggle to adapt to their new surroundings- with Mac taking on the renovations himself- Mia and Mac will discover if their marriage is strong enough to survive months of DIY renovations.
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May 03, 2011
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Excerpt from If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster
"No. No. Oh, HELL, no."
I'm standing upstairs in my office when I spot someone in an oversized hoodie and low-slung pants paint ORNESTEGA in puffy silver letters on the flat red bricks of the building across the street.
Which is a church.
I imagine the Lord probably has His own way of dealing with little thugs who deface houses of worship, but I can't just stand here waiting for Him to scramble a swarm of locust or turn rivers to blood. I imagine He's got a lot on his plate right now, what with war, poverty, the Sudanese situation, and all those reality show contestants asking for His divine guidance as they navigate their way through the obstacle course and into the Jell-o pit.
The other thing is, if He does take notice and sends down hail mixed with fire, it's going to ruin my lawn. I think sometimes God expects us to act as His emissaries, ergo, I will fix this.
I press the INDOOR TALK button on the intercom system. "Mac! Maaaaac! There's a tagger outside and..." Before I can even finish my sentence, my husband Mac has exited his basement office/lair and flown across the street.
When it comes to wrongs that need righting, Mac fancies himself a modern-day Batman. I mean, if Batman were pushing forty, with a hint of spare tire around his waist, seven gray hairs, and a job in middle management for the phone company. The truth is he's more like Dilbert, only with a fully stocked arsenal.
Back in college, after we became friends, but before we started dating, Mac appointed himself my personal bouncer. Mac thought I was too hung up on being polite so I'd always find myself cornered by some asshole I couldn't graciously escape whenever I'd go out. After Mac stepped in, woe be it to any guy who hit on me or hassled me, because Mac was right there at my back. Eventually my friend Ann Marie pointed out that I could--and had--done a lot worse than dating someone so anxious to keep me safe and happy, and we've been together ever since.
Anyway, despite the sixty tons of brick and cement block that comprise our house's exterior walls, and regardless of the sound-proofed, super-sealed, triple-hanged windows, I can still hear every syllable of profanity Mac hurls at the aspiring gang-banger. I quickly search for some footwear because I don't want to run barefoot into the snow to monitor the situation. My dog Duckie has the bizarre and annoying habit of taking one shoe and hiding it under the covers so I have to tear through the unmade bed to find my flannel clog's mate. As soon as I can, I dash downstairs and outside just in time to witness... nothing.
Mac's cheeks are flushed and he can't suppress his smile. I've never met anyone who enjoys an altercation as much as this man. "Mia, you should have seen that little bastard try to get away in those pants. He pretty much hobbled himself. Looked like he was running a potato sack race. By the way, he disappeared into that building." He jerks his finger toward the dilapidated apartments a few doors down. I hate that complex; they only cut their grass twice last summer, both times at 6:00 AM on Sundays. "Apparently he's our neighbor."
"Who's stupid enough to tag a building in broad daylight* And then bravely run home across the street*" I wonder out loud. "Also, if that little shit wants to claim this block in the name of ORNESTEGA, then maybe he should be paying our rent."
"Not for long," Mac corrects. "Pretty soon he can pay our property taxes. Hey, ORNESTEGA," he shouts in the direction of the six-flat, "you owe us twelve-thousand bucks!"
Mac and I are in the process of buying our house. Rather, we've started the process; we're currently waiting for the results of our appraisal so we can write a formal offer.
We moved into this neighborhood a year and a half ago. Originally our plan was to get out of the city of Chicago and into the suburbs. Honestly, I've been dreaming of the bucolic towns ringing the north side of Chicago ever since I started watching John Hughes movies on VHS with my older sister Jessica.
I grew up in one of the bleak and depressing Indiana steel towns that ring the wrong side of Lake Michigan. Jess and I would snuggle into our rump-sprung plaid couch located in the drab ranch house my family shared with my grandmother, located down the street from the mill.