American Housewife: Stories – Helen Ellis
Fiction – Short Stories
Published January 12th 2016 by Doubleday
I’ve been loving short story collections lately to read before bed and this was perfect. Some of the stories were a hit or miss for me, but I audibly gasped at one scene and found myself laughing-out-loud at others, so I consider that a win.
For me this book was a better satirical reading of any Bravo show at night. The 12 stories all focused on women just trying to live their best lives and what that meant to them, no matter how crazy. They were vicious, naive, thoughtful, pragmatic, and all around truly batshit and I absolutely loved it. The settings vary from a legendary lingerie shop in the South to the set of a reality show to two women fighting over decorations for common space in between their apartments. Some of these women are truly awful, but they have heart and wit and make every story enjoyable.
This book follows the tone of a satirical look at womanhood and what that means. With each story being so different from one another I’m just going to quickly go through the story I liked best and the one I liked least.
“Hello! Welcome to Book Club” – This story starts out simple enough. An older lady is introducing a new woman around her book club, explaining everyone’s book club names and the type of books they usually pick. Then it went very Stepford very fast and threw me for a complete loop. I loved it. I expected it to have a darker ending, most of the stories did, but this wasn’t a scenario I saw coming. I had to reread it as soon as I finished and it was the one story that made me audibly gasp thank laugh, mostly I was just laughing. I don’t want to say much more and spoil it but if you only read one story in the collection, which why would you, read this one.
“The Fitter” – It’s not that I didn’t like this story, I just wasn’t in the right headspace for it. The story takes place inside of a lingerie shop in Georgia where the man who owns it has a gift for finding women the right bra. They come from all over the country to have him size them. A good bra gives these women, really all women, the confidence they need in life. However, this man is fully committed to his wife who helps him out in the store and the entire story is from her point of view. It ends sadder that I wanted at the time, not bad in any way, just wasn’t my favorite in the bunch.
“I cry because I don’t have the upper-arm strength to flatiron my hair.”
“Problem is: my last three novels lie dead in a drawer. I’m 45. Maybe it’s not too late to find something else that I’m good at.”
What’s so amazing about this collection is that for the most part every story had me laughing from being genuinely surprised. Ellis was able to build up suspense and make me feel connections to characters in such a short page count that I loved it. Definitely a go-and-read-right-now.