Book Review: 30 Rooms to Hide In

November 17, 2011

I’m never one to turn down free things, especially books. Being the advertising nerd that I am, I follow Luke Sullivan on Twitter. He tweeted a while back that he would give away a free ePub version of his latest book to the first few people that responded, and I was one of those people. I received it in August and didn’t get the chance to read it until November when I contracted a nasty sinus infection and was forced to stay home from work and mend. It could be said that it wasn’t until I was forced into serious boredom that I decided to pick it up, but that simply isn’t the case.

Luke Sullivan is a well-known veteran of the Advertising arena, winning many awards over his expansive career at advertising agencies, such as The Martin Agency and GDS&M. He just recently became chair of the Savannah College of Art and Design Advertising Department. If you’ve been an advertising student, you’ve read his books, particularly Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!

I didn’t know what to expect when I began reading Thirty Rooms to Hide In, but it’s probably best that I didn’t.

Thirty Rooms is no picker-upper. Luke recounts life as one of 6 boys living in the Millstone, the name given to their mansion located in the surrounding area of the Mayo Clinic where their father, Dr. Roger Sullivan, worked as an Orthopedic surgeon. Roger was a raging alcoholic and chemically dependent long before the time of his death in 1966, where the book begins. Thirty Rooms chronicles life for Roger and Myra Sullivan as they progressed from early married life to success at the Mayo Clinic and then to the unravelling of their family unit.

Luke’s careful work to accurately portray Roger stems from interviews of his brothers and mother and entries from the now uncommon diary. Luke describes what life was like for his father growing up in the home of his preacher father and his mother, affectionately called “Grandma Rock” by the 6 grandchildren. The stories about Grandma Rock are hilarious – you should read the book just for the Rock stories. What’s surprising about Thirty Rooms is Luke’s ability to objectively tell the brutal truth while maintaining a sense of humor – just enough to give the reader highs to get through the lows.

Thirty Rooms is the account of life, the life of the Sullivan family and the truth that Roger was a monster when alcohol was in his system. The differences between the cultural paradigms of then and now are brought to light and these differences amazed me. My generation is aware of how things were different, but hearing the detailed accounts of those who lived in that time period causes the reality to sink in. In Thirty Rooms, Luke writes that the term chemical dependency didn’t exist back then, and that is clearly evident in the “treatment procedures” Roger received in an attempt to put his life back together.

I thought Thirty Rooms was an excellent read, albeit not your typical cheery-feel-good-happy-ending book.

I have some concepts for the new cover, although this is one occasion where the current cover is actually well-designed. Wait – a well-designed book cover of a book written by a Copywriter/Creative Director/Ad Guru? Who’da thunk.

Thirty Rooms to Hide In is available in most publishing formats and is well worth the time and money, although I didn’t have to pay since I received a free copy. As always, excellent writing from Luke Sullivan.