Review: White Elephant

White Elephant

White Elephant
By Julie Langsdorf
Ecco, 9780062857750, March 26, 2019, 320pp.

The Short of It:

A neighborhood is in flux when one of the homeowners builds a giant, monstrosity of a home right next to his quaint, cozy, cottage style neighbors.

The Rest of It:

Any book centered around a suburban neighborhood is probably a book that will end up on my shelf because I am obsessed with suburbia. Mostly, its inhabitants and in White Elephant, they are an interesting group for sure.

The addition of this ginormous home sets everyone on edge. The early morning hammering and the lack of space between it and the other homes that flank it create stress and frustration for everyone involved. This “stress” is acted on in many different ways. One of which is an affair with the said neighbor. And then, suddenly people are pregnant and talking about their own homes expanding.

Such is the case with master planned communities. Things change. People change. Builders try to predict how people will live but in the end, there is always progress. Homes gets bigger as families get bigger. Marriages fall apart due to stress. Perhaps from having to carry a heftier mortgage. More kids to raise, too. You get it.

White Elephant puts it all right there for you to observe. My one complaint is that I didn’t feel attached to any of the characters so their individual struggles didn’t mean all that much to me. However, what it says about progress and how inevitable it is kind of depressed me. I’ve seen very similar things in my own neighborhood which used to be a cul-de-sac neighborhood but is now no longer that due to the end of the road being opened up to the main highway. With the added through traffic came speed bumps. Progress. Not the good kind.

If you don’t mind a book that is rather episodic in nature, and you have a fascination for suburbia, then you will appreciate White Elephant.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

15 thoughts on “Review: White Elephant”

  1. I do have a fascination with suburbia. I used to think our neighborhood was ideal but some of our great neighbors moved and those that replaced them are all about image, etc. I like the sound of this book but do wish the characters were more developed.

  2. I’m curious about this book too. The Austin area is one that is rapidly expanding and also older areas are being ‘gentrified’ or certainly expanded. I recently saw a piece about people building really large houses on my very tiny lots in a much older part of town that has become very trendy. The houses take up the whole lot. I find that a bit sad and not at all to my taste. Who wants to be able to put your hand out the window and touch the neighbor’s house? My ‘fear’ is that I’m becoming part of the generation that says ‘those young whippersnappers’…does that mean I’m old? Ha!

    1. You just described my little city. We had a trend for the past ten years of building out an entire lot. No backyard. Just house. Now it’s going to other way again. Smaller house, more lot. My house is not large but sits on a large lot and I like it. I like having space and we only have, well, SEE a neighbor on one side because we are sloped. I like to be able to BBQ and not have people checking out what I’m cooking!

    1. If all of my neighbors aired their dirty laundry I’m sure their lives would look a lot like the ones in this book. So in that sense, the author was spot on. It’s amusing as long as it’s not your life. LOL.

    1. These women are kind of dumb but so are a lot of women I know. I guess that part is not far off. Sounds mean but dumb in that they make stupid decisions.

  3. Sounds a bit like my neighborhood right now: one remodel in particular has lasted 4 years (and $4 million!) and they just bought the lot next door for some extravagant over-priced amount and they’re now approaching a third neighbor to buy her house. I guess they want a compound. And the construction noise? All day and loud. 🙂

  4. Yeah these big monster houses that go in that fill the entire property are not to my liking but that is happening here too. Ugh. It is stressful. Nobody wants that built next to their own home. The author seems to have hit on the right topic here.

    1. There is a tract near me that doesn’t even allow room to store your trash cans between the houses. In Ca we tend to put the cans on the side of the house out of sight but the homes I am talking about have to keep them in front! Which is just wrong.

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