The book cover is what drew me to American Housewife, a collection of short stories by Helen Ellis. My mother taught school, so I didn’t have the experience of a stay-at-home mom and I was always curious about these mysterious creatures. The only glimpse I got into that world was when mom hosted a tea for the Junior League – yes, teas were a very big thing in the South when I was growing up.
What is a housewife? As a child, I had visions of a woman in a frilly apron who baked lots of cookies and delicious home-cooked meals instead of the frozen dinners, pre-packaged cookies, and take-out we often had as the kids of a working mom. At least, as a teacher, mom got summers off and that was wonderful. It was one of those “the grass is always greener” scenarios. I had friends who thought it was really cool that my mom worked and wasn’t there all the time, especially when we became teenagers. LOL
Does Real Housewives give you the chills? Well, it’s got nothing over Helen Ellis’ stories, which run the gamut from hysterically funny to creepy as hell. Underneath it all is classic Southern snarkdom at its best! I guarantee you will never look at the suburban housewife the same way again – just driving by those houses is going to make you wonder WTH is going on inside of them. Sound interesting?
This darkly funny short story collection includes the following twelve stories. I’ve included some notes on a few of them (they’re all winners but you need some surprises).
What I Do All Day: Anyone who’s ever been a housewife or has even taken a short respite from work has had this quite pointed question asked of them. Do you really want to know the answer?
The Wainscoting War
Dumpster Diving With The Stars: Ever wanted to be in a reality show? You might think twice after reading this one.
Southern Lady Code: Anyone who grew up in the South is going to get a kick out of, and possibly cringe at, this one. There are tons of code phrases that women use in the South which sound really wonderful on the surface but mean something else entirely underneath…
Hello! Welcome to Book Club: You will either love the quirkiness of this one or decide, like I did, that it’s the book club from hell.
“Hello! Welcome to Book Club. I’m your hostess. My Book Club name is Mary Beth. We all have Book Club names at Book Club.
Why, dear? Well, really, why not?
The girl who brought me here goes by Delores. The ladies on the red sofa named themselves after TV judges. The ladies on the grey sofa named themselves after flowers…
If you decide to join us, you can give yourself a Book Club name. We’ll laminate a bookmark with your new name on it. We’ll hole punch a tassel. You can keep your bookmark in whatever book you’re reading. It doesn’t have to be a Book Club book. But your Book Club name will be a secret name that only we call you. Trust me, you’ll like it. It feels like a dollar bill in your bra.”
The Fitter: If you’ve ever tried to shop for a bra that actually works for you, you’re going to love this one about the best bra fitter in the entire universe.
How To Be A Grown-Ass Lady
How To Be A Patron Of The Arts
Pageant Protection: Ever want to rescue all those poor girls in pageant contests from their over-achieving stage moms? If so, you’ll definitely empathize with the main character in this story.
“Listen up. We’ve got exactly four minutes before they notice you’re not backstage with the other contestants. In eight minutes, they’ll lock down the Radisson. In twenty, they’ll issue an Amber Alert.
So get in the van. Hunch down. Take off your dress. There’s a t-shirt and shorts under the front seat. Wipe off your make-up and take off that wig. Put on that wig. Stay down! Don’t look in the rearview mirror. I can assure you, sweetie, you look like a boy. I’m sorry, but that’s part of the drill. Remember, you asked for this and I’m here to help.”
Take It From Cats
My Novel Is Brought To You By The Good People At Tampax: Corporate sponsorship is not quite what this author imagined it would be.
Helen Ellis skewers domesticity in American Housewife, and doesn’t pull any punches. I loved every minute of it even when some of the darker stories made me cringe. All of these stories are quite short so they make perfect bite-sized reads for people with hectic schedules, and who doesn’t have hectic schedules these days? You’ll laugh and occasionally you’ll go “Eeew!” and you’ll find yourself thinking about the realities of women’s lives in the 21st century. Have a blast reading American Housewife – I know I did!
Can’t wait to read it? American Housewife is available in most formats from your favorite online bookseller below. Just click the link and you can have it immediately to savor in bite-sized pieces!
I’d love to get your comments on American Housewife, Helen Ellis and/or her other work, and/or this review.