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The Rooming House Gallery: Connecting the Dots. Josh and Andres unexpectedly inherit an old rooming house in Chicago. Each discovers they have a long and deep history with the place. Thrilled to have a home of their own, plus a place for Andres to make and sell his art, the two are challenged to turn the place into a community art center. The challenge becomes more personal as each deals with their own backgrounds, family issues and differing personal interests. Tough decisions are made about their new/old home, relationship with their fathers, and their conflict over starting a family. The neighboring family and new friends play a key role as they bring the art center to fruition, move into a new personal home, and begin a non-DNA family.
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Reader Comments & Reviews
The Rooming House Gallery: Connecting the Dots
The Rooming House Gallery: Connecting the Dots, by Bill Mathis
Literary Fiction, 260 pp
May, 2020, Rogue Phoenix Press
Reviewed by Lisa Lickel, www.lisalickel.comHistory and contemporary life duke it out in a quest for acknowledgment in this edition of the Rooming House saga. A building with a previous life is bequeathed to a young couple, one wanting home and family, one wanting space and community action. They learn their roots go deep and twine through the building’s very foundation, and their current relationship may have sprung from history itself as they unravel personal stories from the ledgers and diaries left in the building.
At heart is the author’s passion for family, something that resonates with me. When two people try to form a more perfect union, no matter who, what, when, and where they are, reality often exposes scars and warts and everyone’s personal level of depravity. It’s the committed soul who can share the healing process. Andres and Josh may look and act like opposites, but their mutual affection and determination to give and take are an example for all couples. Each has a desire to learn from the past and grow forward, while serving the greater community. They’ve been together ten years, but how well do they know each other, truly, and the direction to the next level of their union are questions explored in this richly nuanced, very human story.
Told from a large perspective, occasionally shifting among family and community members, the reader is drawn into the secrets and revelations of the evolving American culture. I also had to look up a tamale recipe. While bedroom scenes are under covers, so to speak, parents of potential readers under 16 might want to vet the book first.
Reviewer Lisa Lickel writes from the peaceful rolling hills of western Wisconsin. A multi-published, best-selling and award-winning novelist, she also writes short stories and radio theater, occasional articles, is an avid book reviewer, blogger, and a freelance editor. She and her husband travel and enjoy family time.
Windy City Reviews – Book Review: The Rooming House Gallery
Reviewed by David Steven Rappoport
The Rooming House Gallery: Connecting the Dots is an engaging follow-up companion to The Rooming House Diaries: Life, Love & Secrets, Mathis’ novel published last year. Like Diaries, Mathis built Gallery on the same premise as Elmer Rice’s famous play Street Scene—the lives of residents of the same building. Unlike Diaries, which was also a social history of Chicago, Gallery has a compressed timeline in the recent past. Yet at its best, Gallery becomes a sort of contemporary Canterbury Tales or Decameron in that there’s a strong focus on storytelling.
Manny Rodriguez, a gay Hispanic man who is disabled from childhood abuse and a significant character in Diaries, is dying. He informs his visiting nephew, Andres, and his partner, Josh, that they will inherit a property Manny owns—an old rooming house. After Manny’s death, they move in, and the century-old saga of 4822 South Justine continues with the building now transforming into a community art gallery.
As in the previous volume, Mathis’ narrative is a delight to read. The writing rarely lags, and the large and diverse group of characters is artfully handled. The tale of Andres’ mother, Bella Briseno Rodriguez, is particularly engaging. An illegal immigrant seduced and left pregnant by an unscrupulous man, Bella manipulates events that force him to marry her, teaches herself English from her son’s library books, and builds a life for herself and her son in the midst of a bitter marriage.
The book has one area for improvement. The central structural narrative—Andres’s and Josh’s struggle with the building—isn’t as engaging as the stories of characters such as Bella Briseno Rodriguez. Perhaps in the future, Mathis will write a novel that models more closely on the Decameron or Canterbury Tales, thus focusing more fully on his great strength of storytelling. Meanwhile, The Rooming House Gallery: Connecting the Dots will delight Mathis fans and make him many new ones.This book is a satisfying companion piece to Bill Mathis’ book The Rooming House Diaries. Bill is a storyteller who pulls the reader in to the characters and locales he has created. Bill describes the joys, challenges, and heartbreak of family relationships – both DNA and non-DNA family. As the character Lacie McGuire said in Bill’s first book, “We don’t measure family by blood.” There is a thread that runs through Bill’s first three books so I highly recommend them all. Prepare to become attached to these characters – they will stay with you long after you’ve finished their tales.
Bill is a terrific writer! I was glad to see a new Bill Mathis book and it doesn’t disappoint. I love how vivid and lively our author spins his yarns and draws you right in. You don’t want to miss this one! 5 stars on Amazon by NottsdottiLife challenges make for good reading. In a touching and joyful manner, two young men explore how to help their community and along the way learn more about themselves. As they maneuver through the complexity of daily life the couple also explores interpersonal issues and choices made by each other as well as their family members. Descriptive writing places the reader in the scene and allows us to capture the emotions of the various situations. Strong opinions and feelings evident throughout the story culminate in a satisfying resolution. I love good ending and you will too as you follow the sometimes difficult but interesting lives of the characters. 5 Stars on Amazon by Roberta Otoole
Very Fine Read. Everyone should read The Rooming House Gallery: Connecting the Dots, by Bill Mathis. Bill Mathis’ characters are real and fully believable. His tale will keep you turning the pages. There’s love and lots of humanity. You’ll find yourself becoming a part of the community surrounding the old Rooming House as it becomes an historic site and a haven for artists. The tale highlights life, trials, joy, sadness’s, victories…and mostly love. Bill Mathis uses words to paint images that make you feel you’re there, in the moment; experiencing all the experiences! The Rooming House Gallery: Connecting the Dots is a very fine read! I thoroughly enjoyed it and have no doubt you will too!! I highly recommend this book!!! 5 Stars on Amazon by Bob Wood
I just finished reading your newest book, and it was my favorite of the three! Your fan, Marge
I love this book! 5 Stars on Goodreads by Jamie
This book is a satisfying companion piece to Bill Mathis’ book The Rooming House Diaries. Bill is a storyteller who pulls the reader in to the characters and locales he has created. Bill describes the joys, challenges, and heartbreak of family relationships – both DNA and non-DNA family. As the character Lacie McGuire said in Bill’s first book, “We don’t measure family by blood.” There is a thread that runs through Bill’s first three books so I highly recommend them all. Prepare to become attached to these characters – they will stay with you long after you’ve finished their tales. 5 Stars on Goodreads by Vicki Johnson