Home is Burning | Dan Marshall

Kernel Kate Dawes reviews Dan Marshall’s debut memoir from a time in his twenties he returned home to care for his cancer suffering parents. While a cancer story it is more comedic observation with equal parts heart warming. HOME IS BURNING is out now from the folks at Hachette Australia Books and is so popular the movie is on the way with Miles Teller in the lead role as Dan. Hachette is out of stock online so you will need to locate this one in most bookstores. Enjoy Kate’s fine review…….all the best…….JK.


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Home is Burning | Dan Marshall | Salty Popcorn Book Review | Author image: Photo credit to Sharon Suh for The Guardian



HOME IS BURNING, a memoir by Dan Marshall, chronicles his chaotic and unique family during a tumultuous and heart breaking two year period which takes in illness, break ups, family drama, death and growing up as Marshall leaves behind his privileged, but typical twenty-something lifestyle to care for his terminally ill parents.

‘Spoiled white asshole’ Dan Marshall has what he thinks is the ideal lifestyle in LA. He’s finished collage, gotten out on his own and is doing well at his new job. Sure his mom has had terminal cancer since the nineties, but she’s always been a fighter and after fourteen years and seventy rounds of chemo is in remission doing well. Just when Dan thinks nothing can ruin his perfect weekend away at the family timeshare in Palm Spring soaking up the sun and drinking cocktails by the pool with gorgeous long distance girlfriend Abby a bomb hits. His Dad has been diagnosed with ALS. Lou Gehrig’s disease, the one from the ice bucket challenge.

Though it takes a bit longer for it to sink in for Dan than the rest of his family, mom, a brother and three sisters Dan begins to realise he now has two terminally ill parents. It’s not until he travels to Boston to watch his dad compete in the Boston Marathon just months after his diagnosis and has to shower him afterwards as he can’t do it himself Dan realises how fast he is deteriorating. With his mom struggling to keep up with his care and her own cancer coming back Dan has to make the decision to leave his job, return home to Salt Lake City and take on a large part of his parents care. In the process he has to learn a lot of new skills, deal with some big issues of his own and other peoples and redefine every relationship that he has.


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Home is Burning | Dan Marshall | Salty Popcorn Book Review | Miles Teller is playing Dan in the Movie Adaption of Home is Burning


Don’t think, however, this will be your typical sob story. The Marshall family is often crude, rude and hilarious. From Dan frequently calling himself a ‘dickhead’ and demonstrating just why in the way he torments sister and gay brother for their choices in partners, to his shared enjoyment of fart jokes with his younger sister and he and his mom often communicating by swearing at each other this side of them really comes through. This doesn’t make them unlikeable by any means, through most of these moments there’s a real humour and warmth which can be seen in the way they interact with each other even when Marshall doesn’t shy away from describing how he was sometimes stretched to his limits. The family’s shared humour may not be for everyone and those who don’t like profanity may be best avoiding this one but if you don’t mind swearing, toilet humour and the occasional joke at someone else’s expense there are some really funny moments.


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Home is Burning | Dan Marshall | Salty Popcorn Book Review | Book Cover image


HOME IS BURNING has already been picked up by New Line for a film adaptation and in some moments of the book you can really see this chaotic, loud, animated family on film. While it’s still early, and if you are the type of person who likes to read the book fresh before hearing about the film you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph, Miles Teller is in talks to play Dan and there have been mentions of Tom Hanks being cast as his dad Bob. This seems almost perfect as it is mentioned at one point that FORREST GUMP was Bob’s favourite movie. While no other details have been released yet the book really lends itself to a strong comedy ensemble cast who can also play dramatic emotional moments.

One aspect of Marshall’s writing which is a strong influence on the tone of HOME IS BURNING is that it started life as a blog and this is really shown in his casual writing style. While you won’t find blog formatting or text speak the tone and style is still casual, relaxed and this really lets the Marshall’s personalities come through. You really do get the sense that everything for this family is treated with jokes, that’s just how they relate to each other and to take this out and lose the feeling it creates would make the hard emotional moments less resonant.

HOME IS BURNING is a heart warming and heart breaking journey with a crazy, loud, complicated family and one to catch before the film.


4 Pops


Having always loved stories one of Kernel Kate’s most frequent childhood memories was her parents telling her in the early hours that it was way too late to still be reading and to go to sleep, but she would always sneak in the end of the chapter. Her love of stories led to a career in movies as well as remaining an avid reader of everything from novels to academic papers and junk mail. She makes a perfect reading machine fit to the Salty Cob.