Wednesday, August 03, 2016

American Housewife: Stories

by Helen Ellis


Surprising to me is the number of people I meet who do not like short story collections. For my busy schedule, I love them. They are quick enough to sneak in on your lunch break, but captivating enough to pack a punch in a few pages. Also, most collections offer a wide range of moods and themes, great for short attention spans. The scope of my most recent collection of short stories, American Housewife, interprets this stereotypical concept loosely showing variations of a modern housewife.

"The Wainscotting War" is one that will make you laugh in its absurdity and also its familiarity: told entirely via passive aggressive email correspondence between a new apartment tenant and her neighbor. They share a common area outside of their respective apartments, but do not share the same interior decorating aesthetic. What starts off as a friendly, neighborly welcome turns into an all out battle.

As a member of a book club, the story "Hello! Welcome to Book Club" is a parody of just what happens when you put a group of women together for any reason: entertainment. Many of the characters in this story will playfully remind you of that certain someone in your group of friends. 

In the 2-page "Southern Lady Code" the language of Southern housewives is interpreted into their intended meaning. This story is all about perception: when one woman says something to the other, it might have a totally different subtext. For example, “What do you think about her?" is code for: "I don’t like her”.

And the author, Helen Ellis, can be a short story herself. She was raised in Alabama, hence the shrewd southern wit, and is a die-hard poker player that competes in national tournaments. She's someone I'd definitely invite to be in my book club. Check out Helen Ellis' novel Eating the Cheshire Cat. For more housewives gone wild try Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. To feel out some more short story collections try Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny or A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin.

Helen Ellis (far right)

Review by Stevie Z.

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