Book Review: American Housewife Stories


"I hop in the shower and assure myself that behind every good woman is a little back fat."

This line appears six paragraphs into the first story in American Housewife Stories by Helen Ellis. The chapter is called "What I do all day."

I am hooked.

Four paragraphs later this collection of words appear:

"I see everyone out and face the cold hard truth that no one will ever load my dishwasher right. I scroll through iPhone photos and see that if I delete pictures of myself with a double chin, I will erase all proof of my glorious life. I fix myself a hot chocolate because it is a gateway drug to reading. I think I couldn't love my husband more, and then he vacuums all the glitter."

Every word in this section is chewy and delicious. I can't believe this is my book for the week.

Then I get to the next essay, a dark missive about women battling over the decor in their shared NYC co-op lobby. The writing is brilliant but the topic leaves me melancholy. The third essay is about reality TV and, given my business, is sadly on point.

The fourth story is entitled "Southern Lady Code" -- a page and a half of absolutely brilliance.

"'Is this too dressy?' is Southern Lady code for: I look fabulous and it would be in your best interest to tell me so.'I'm not crazy about it' is code for: I hate that more than sugar-free punch.'What do you think about her?' is code for: I don't like her."

Every single sentence made me either squirm or laugh.

Actually, this was my behavior for the entire 185 pages of this book; laughing or squirming. I was never, ever bored, and I almost always admired the writing.

I wish I had written the chapter "How to be a grown-ass lady" which includes gems such as:

" Compliment everyone. Take a compliment...Don't sit on a toilet in front of anyone, ever. If your husband wants a bigger TV, for heaven's sake let him have it...Get refitted for bras on your birthday...Face it: you're never going to get carded again, so quit asking bouncers if they want to see your ID. Quit going places where they have bouncers...Call people under thirty kids. Call people over sixty young...Don't look at your profile because it's not the mirror or the lighting or the time of day, it's you."

The range of stories is all over the map and not everything will leave you feeling like the selection I just quoted. Ms. Ellis isn't above telling the macabre tale of murder or deception. Her heroines have more than their fair share of rage. So you need to be game for reading witty unhappiness.

Still, if you aren't going to read this entire book, do yourself a favor and turn to page 159 to read "Take it From Cats" which captures our feline (??!) friends perfectly. To wit...

"Clean between your toes. Flaunt your full figure. Hide loose change. Even though you can take care of yourself, it's okay to let someone be nice to you. It's fine to take a nap on the laundry."

Can't wait to hear what you all think!