Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Feels About American Housewife: Stories

I wasn't sure what to expect from American Housewife: Stories, by Helen Ellis, except a whole lotta attitude. Ellis definitely delivered on that front, but on the whole, I had mixed feelings about this collection.

Disclaiming: I received an e-galley from the publisher for review consideration. 

The stories here are sardonic, satirical, smart, and sassy. Yeah, I did the alliteration on purpose by the end there. The humor Ellis employs reminds me a lot of collections I've read from Simon Rich and B.J. Novak.

While I really love stories of this ilk, the collection as a whole was hit or miss for me. At times I felt it was too "one note."

There were definitely some stand-out stories:

My favorite came toward the end of the collection...in "My Novel is Brought to You By the Good People at Tampax," a writer struggles to produce a sponsored novel. She spends more time in a day promoting her unwritten sponsored novel on social media or setting up character-based county fair tours. She speaks with a Tampax representative daily, always reminded of how close she is to deadline. The more time she wastes, the more intense the sponsor's threats become until she finds herself alone in an empty house with only a laptop and a landline phone. As she makes writing progress the food delivered by her neighbors increases, and she earns her amenities back. But Tampax is in it for the long haul and she signed a contract....write it, go through a couple of print runs, and will there be a sequel?

Some other standouts:

In "The Wainscoting War" two women in an apartment building trade backhanded compliments and sharp jabs at one another via email over their shared hallway. The new neighbor wants to install wainscoting and update the furnishings, while the older neighbor who helped decorate it in the first place, considers wainscoting soooo new money obvious. They employ all kinds of antics to outwit the other including tiny torn wallpaper corners all the way to to rampant cat damage and domestic espionage.

In "Pageant Protection," an adult woman smuggles children out of the Southern pageant circuit to New York to respectable, normal families who won't cover them in pancake makeup or tulle. It's a whole underground railroad for tots in tiaras to find a new life.

This was a quick, intelligent, snarky read. While I wish there'd be a little more variety in voice from one story to the next, I really do appreciate what Ellis is doing here, even if this wasn't my favorite collection. If this sounds like something up your alley, but you're just not sure, maybe try Spoiled Brats or The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich first.

Doubleday (January 12, 2016)
ISBN: 0385541031
Format: Digital
Source: Received from the publisher for review consideration.



27 comments:

  1. I had so much trouble pinpointing exactly why this collection was hit and miss for me. I like your point that it was one note. We had different favorites, though. I loved Dumpster Divers and The Fitter. I also liked the Tampax one, but wasn't a fan of Wainscoting Wars...too over the top for me.

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    1. I didn't care for Dumpster Divers so much, but I loved The Fitter. I was SOCLOSE to including it in this review but I found it hard to describe.

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  2. I am soooo looking forward to this one!

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    1. I hope you love it, Hillary!

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  3. I got through this NetGalley and was excited about it. Now, I'm not really looking forward to it. I'm probably read the stories you liked though - they sound really good (especially the pageant one). Great review!

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    1. Throw in the story "The Fitter" and you'll have a nice, well-rounded tasting menu. :)

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  4. Hmmm, after reading your thoughts and Sarah's comment that it was hit or miss for her, as well, I'm not going to jump to read this one too quickly; thank you for sharing this, Andi! Some of these sound pretty amusing, but I've got lots of other selections to read first.

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    1. It's a very short, quick read so you wouldn't be wasting much time if you decide to try it. If I'd dipped in and out of it, I think I would've liked it better, but I read it straight through for Bout of Books. The faves were definitely good, though.

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  5. I just requested this from NetGalley because it sounds delicious!

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    1. I hope it rings all your bells!

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  6. Collections can be hit or miss unless they are written by Simon Van Booy! Just sayin'. This cover though! I would read it just for that cover alone.

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    1. LOL, that is a true statement. And I'd throw in Alice Hoffman, Sara Taylor, and Simon Rich. The cover is amaaaaazing.

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  7. From the title, I was hoping it might be a good possibility for the Literary Wives group. Are the stories at all about the experience of being a wife, like the title suggests?

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    1. Yes, they are. Though some of them don't focus heavily on the wifely role, in truth. I still think it would be a good choice for a group discussion, for sure.

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  8. I love this cover so much I can't even take it. I think I will definitely still give this one a go... maybe get it on kindle so I can just read it on my phone when the mood strikes. I tend to like to do that with short story collections. Great review!

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    1. I loved the cover too! I'm considering getting a paper copy so I can display it on a shelf.

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  9. I saw this one somewhere recently and thought I had to have it. I haven't actually downloaded it yet, but it's definitely on my TBR list.

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  10. Pageant Protection sounds like a hoot! I've seen this one on NetGalley and have been tempted to request it. I don't read a lot of short stories though but I may just go for it!

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  11. I loved this collection so much. I can't believe you didn't:-) When I went back to write my review I found myself remembering the stories and going having fun all over again. I tend to like my stories linked or thematic, so that part really worked for me here.

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  12. My library has ordered this one, and I'm in the queue for it. I love the cover, which is what drew me in. I noticed that others have enjoyed the stories separately but as a whole, it was meh. I'm going in without expectation and hoping to be entertained...when my number in the queue is up, that is.

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  13. I was excited by this book when I first saw it on NetGalley and I was going to request it but then I didn't and I regretted that, but not so much now. If I read this it'll definitely be a library read.

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  14. I've got this, and I've just started it. It's good fun, but slightly one-note. And I've got to say, the US cover is a lot cooler than the UK one, which is nice, but not AS nice.

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  15. I was intrigued by this collection mostly because I feel like the term "housewife" now is so rarely used, and obviously the cover is quite striking. It's a bummer that the collection was not as stellar as it could have been, but I'm glad you found some gems in it!

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  16. Definitely not for me. I'll keep such short story collections for those who actually enjoy them. Thanks though! (And can you imagine if Tampax sponsored a writer?)

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  17. THis one was the perfect match for my postholiday mood!

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  18. This sounds like a snappy little ditty that I could go for. I don't very often read short story collections, but I have enjoyed them in the past and should read them more. Thanks for your review.

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  19. I'm not a huge fan of short stories and the cover of this book didn't appeal to me, but the stories you describe sound so funny! I might have to pick this up :)

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