Monday, June 11, 2018

Other People's Houses

Title:  Other People's Houses
Author:  Abbi Waxman
Publication Information:  Berkley. 2018. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0399587926 / 978-0399587924

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It was amazing how many children you could fit in a minivan, if you tessellated carefully and maintained only the most basic level of safety."

Favorite Quote:  "Sometimes life is just what it is, and the best you can hope for is ice cream."

Imagine one neighborhood street and four families who live on that street in a world of shared friendships, shared carpools and secrets that are not shared. Imagine now a myriad of "family" issues that may occur... Stable marriage that may border on boring. A woman who epitomizes the stereotype of the frumpy minivan soccer mom. An affair. A midlife crisis. A spouse who is away for reasons unknown. An illness. A difference between spouses on the decision to have another child. One spouse's career taking precedence over another... Now throw in a set of children belonging to each set of parents and their angst. Add the mundane household tasks of carpools, groceries, laundry, and dinner.

There in a nutshell is this book. Abbi Waxman's last book The Garden of Small Beginnings was a predictable but sweet book about grief and new beginnings. The sweetness won out in the end, making it an enjoyable beach read. I pick up this book hoping the same especially with the characters from the first book do make a cameo appearance in this book.

This book is as predictable, but unfortunately, the story is not a sweet, uplifting one. The characters are not particularly likable, and their "issues" seem to fit the envisioned stereotype. This book also has a bigger cast of characters, each with their own stories. So, the book seems scattered. The emotions and the handling of the "real life" problems seems superficial. The relationships also seem not to truly embody friendship. Actually, these four families share a carpool. That really seems to be it, but somehow they end up embroiled in each other's family issues, a role that should presumably be for a friend. From personal experience as a soccer mom, friendship may begin with a carpool, but it takes a lot more to change a convenient exchange into a friendship.

My other big issue with this book is the off putting beginning. The book opens on a scene of a middle aged married woman having a dalliance with someone who is not her husband in the daytime hours in her kitchen. Eeww. This is not a love affair, at least not for her. It is a mistake. I am not saying it doesn't happen. I am just saying I don't need to "see" that.  EEwww. It's hard to recover from that image and move on with the book.

Perhaps, I could have put the image aside. However, the narrator of the book - also a middle aged mom, the carpool driver, the soccer mom - indulges in language I don't care for. The book has a lot of gratuitous cursing. It is unpleasant, gets in the way of the story, and seems out of character for someone who spends the majority of their day around children.

I liked the premise of the book that we truly do not know what happens behind someone else's closed door. The book could have led to deeper questions about the strength of a marriage and the building and destroying of trust in a relationship. Unfortunately, for me, it does not.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment