When the Walls Came Tumbling Down

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown

By Edmund L. Andrews

Norton. 220 pp. $25.95


How Real Estate Came to Own Us

By Alyssa Katz


278 pp. $26

Spurred by their own tales of woe, Edmund L. Andrews and Alyssa Katz have created separate, vivid portraits of America besieged by rampant real estate speculation and the resulting housing collapse.

Andrews, an economics reporter at the New York Times, tells a confessional tale about how he signed away his life for a toxic loan to buy a house in Silver Spring that he couldn't really afford. His tone is bizarrely bright and breezy, given the wretched outcome that is evident from the start. The book's title, "Busted," gives away the ending: Andrews's home was in foreclosure, he was contemplating bankruptcy, and his marriage was in tatters.

Andrews's downward spiral started with a midlife crisis. He got divorced and married a woman he had known in high school, with whom he bought a house. He couldn't face the reality that his new family's reduced income, trimmed by alimony and child-support payments, meant that he had fallen out of the economic elite and into the ranks of the working poor.

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