Saturday, April 23, 2016

American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis


American Housewife: Stories 
by Helen Ellis
Doubleday, 2016
208 pages
source: borrowed from the library

Publisher's summary:
A sharp, funny, delightfully unhinged collection of stories set in the dark world of domesticity, American Housewife  features murderous ladies who lunch, celebrity treasure hunters, and the best bra fitter south of the Mason Dixon line.

Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it's cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it's a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven. These twelve irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop. Vicious, fresh, and nutty as a poisoned Goo Goo Cluster, American Housewife is an uproarious, pointed commentary on womanhood.

My thoughts:

This book was on my radar long before its release. The appealing blurb and eye-catching cover made it sound like a collection I'd enjoy, but when reviews began to appear they were decidedly mixed. I started to waver. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered American Housewives on the shelf at the local library and decided to bring it home. What did I have to lose?

The first story was just a few pages long and I thought the second was very good. "The Wainscoting War" chronicles a neighborly spat over common hallway decor through the combatants' email exchanges. It was quite funny and seemed to set the tone for the rest of the collection.

Overall, there were a few more stories I really liked ("Dumpster Diving with the Stars", "Hello! Welcome to Book Club", and "The Fitter") but just as many were only okay or fell a little flat. I'm glad I borrowed the book from the library.

Bottom line: Sassy and snarky, but a little uneven. Some stories were very funny, while others missed the mark.

My rating:

16 comments:

  1. Yeah, I fell in love with the cover but have heard mixed things so will have to think about this one.

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    1. Kathy - A few of the stories are very good. It's definitely worth borrowing from the library.

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  2. Thanks for testing this one for us! Since I was never the typical "American housewife," it doesn't sound like stories I could relate to. Have a great weekend!

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    1. JudyMac - I can understand that! These ladies are not exactly the type I've ever associated with, but they're fun to read about ;-)

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  3. I'm glad you picked this up. I was intrigued by this one but at the same time a little hesitant because so often a housewife is someone who feels like they're forced to stay home (which isn't something I really relate too). It sounds like I might do what you did - look for it at the library and that way I can skip the weaker stories without feeling guilty!

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    Replies
    1. Katherine - Borrowing this one from the library is the way to go. Some of the stories are pretty funny!

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  4. I borrowed the book from the library as well.

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    1. Nise' - I'll be curious to hear what you think.

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  5. This definitely sounds like a good book to borrow! I do like stories about haunted buildings though, especially if they are old and creaky :)

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    1. Lisa - It was... I love the library here! It's been too long since I last read a short story collection.

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  6. I've been thinking about reading this, I'll see if my library has it.

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    1. Vicki - The library is definitely the way to go!

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  7. I think I'm one of the few (certainly not the only one) who enjoyed this book as a whole, but it wasn't the greatest book or even a favorite for the year. I enjoyed some stories more than others, but that's to be expected with a short story collection the same as with a novel collection. It's a short filler read that I'm glad I got to this year.

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    1. Kathy - That's true... there will always be some stories you like more than others in a collection. This one did have a few gems!

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  8. Sounds like we ended up in the same boat. Several winners but the rest...kind of meh. :(

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    Replies
    1. Andi - Seems like that's the case for most story collections...

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