Category Archives: Book Review

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.

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Review: The New Me

The New Me

The New Me
By Halle Butler
Penguin Books, 9780143133605, March 5, 2019, 208pp.

The Short of It:

Think “The Office” minus all the funny characters who make it laughable.

The Rest of It:

Millie is a thirty-something who hasn’t quite figured out how to be a grown-up. She lives alone in an apartment that is partly paid for by her parents. Friends? Not many. She eats poorly and has become a slob. Dressing is too much effort. Just getting up is too much effort but she drags herself to and from her temp job, hoping for a permanent position.

Millie embodies what I think most people this age feel these days. Their social skills are lacking to the point where everything they do is marked by awkwardness. A simple interaction with a co-worker becomes an anxiety-ridden experience and miscommunications become a daily occurrence. Millie is woefully aware of her shortcomings. Because of this, I found myself wanting to take her out for a coffee just so I could give her a little pep talk.

I really enjoyed The New Me. At first, I thought the entire book would be an outline of her day-to-day existence but although there is a lot of that (what she wears, eats, thinks, does), there is enough self-discovery going on for it all to have a purpose.

I found Butler’s take on cube life to be quite accurate. I’ve always had an office but for the past two years have been working out of a very nice, well-appointed cubical and all the little details she adds to embellish office life are spot on. The noises. The sighs. The trash cans and the smells. I found much of the book humorous but in a dark way.

The ending was interesting and honestly, can be interpreted in a couple different ways. I kind of liked that it was up to me but maybe I am the only one to see the alternate possibility? I haven’t seen it mentioned elsewhere.

Anyway, enjoyable and short and if you’ve ever had to work in a cube or struggled to get by as a young person, you will be able to relate.

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