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American Housewife: Stories Hardcover – January 12, 2016
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—Patricia Park, The New York Times Book Review
“Satirical humor as twisted as screw-top bottles — and more effervescent than the stuff that pours out of them… American Housewife is a better cure for winter blahs than hot chocolate… The opening story captures her frisky, subversive take on domesticity… Ellis's [one-liners] are outrageously good… ‘What I Do All Day’ is a three-page tour-de-force, boasting as many dazzlers as a wealthy Upper East Side matron's jewelry box… Amid the furious activity, Ellis works her story to a touching punchline you never saw coming. This is shock and awww writing… Ellis is a master of the unhinged monologue, delivered by narrators whose conventional, seemingly benign, honeyed patter gradually reveals the disturbing demon within.”
—Heller McAlpin, NPR
“The 12 compact tales are delightfully dark and leave readers always rooting for the housewife, no matter how twisted her plots…. With punchy writing and unique conundrums, American Housewife can be devoured in a sitting. Resist. The tales are best consumed like the pinot grigio some of these housewives enjoy — daily.”
—Christina Ledbetter, The Washington Post
“Ms. Ellis, 45, calls herself a housewife. But that only begins to describe her. She is also a shrewd poker player who regularly competes in high-stakes tournaments, and the author of a forthcoming story collection, American Housewife, that focuses a dark and humorous lens on the domestic… The stories are addictive and full of pitch-perfect observations like, ‘the only thing with less character than Chardonnay is wainscoting’ and ‘Delores was as fertile as a Duggar.’ They are populated by, among others, neighbors in a co-op whose fight over decorating turns deadly; women in a book club trying to seduce a new member into carrying their babies; and a chilling series of dead doormen.”
—J. Courtney Sullivan, The New York Times
“Darkly comic stories about, and for, ‘grown-ass’ ladies, featuring scary book clubs, life-changing bra fittings and instructions on matrimony, like ‘Forget thongs.’ LMAO.”
“Written in short and even shorter stories, Ellis structures her chapters as how-tos, lists, emails and some straight narrative. The book captures — and warmly lampoons — the scattered nature of modern life. The tales are also catchy, smart and very, very funny….The housewives in her collection share Ellis’s wry sensibility. But as comical as they are — and they are very — these women also have a sly depth. What Ellis has done with her smart satire is very difficult: She’s poking fun but not making fun of her characters. In fact, they are very likable.”
—Julie Klam, The Washington Post
"The funniest short story collection of 2016… Ellis writes like she talks, and the results are as effervescent and intoxicating as champagne punch.”
—Megan Labrise, Kirkus
“Delightful in its originality and eerie, almost demented, humor… Ellis’s stories start in a place that’s quite familiar—the domestic sphere of New York City’s ritzy Upper East Side, where the author also resides—and end in a place that’s decidedly not. Her characters are stealthily complex, their perfectly composed, well-maintained exteriors the ideal cover for inner lives that seethe with pathos and ambition.”
—Julia Felsenthal, Vogue.com
“The perfect cocktail of Amy Sedaris's wacky wit and Margaret Atwood's insight, Ellis's prose is both searingly funny and emotionally sound… Pithy, witty, and biting, a combination that makes Ellis's writing delicious… The women in these stories are alone in their homes all day, and in that they possess a unique power, command over a confined kingdom.”
—Claire Luchette, Elle.com
“The first line of Helen Ellis' book of short stories is a kind of call to arms for the American housewife. Quote, ‘inspired by Beyonce, I stallion walk to the toaster.’ Ellis is a self-described housewife. She's the kind of Southern lady that deals a mean hand of cards and once played at the World Series of Poker.”
— Rachel Martin, NPR “Morning Edition”
“Crackle[s] with domestically ambivalent characters: the modern day Betty Drapers in Helen Ellis’s short story collection, American Housewife, whose tensions over wainscoting and book clubs escalate into near-farce.”
“Ellis’s 12 short stories about women under pressure are archly, acerbically, even surreally hilarious. By extracting elements from the southern gothic tradition, Shirley Jackson, and Margaret Atwood, Ellis has forged her own molten, mind-twisting storytelling mode. Her pacing is swift and eviscerating, and her characters’ rage and hunger for revenge are off the charts… Perfectly crafted… A breath-halting balance of slashing absurdist humor and rich and authentic emotional sensitivity… With monstrous children and cats, hopeless husbands, and covertly dangerous women, Ellis takes down the entire housewife concept with a sniper’s precision. These are delectably revved up, marauding, sometimes macabre tales of ruined marriages, illness, infertility, crass commercialism (literary product placement), desperation, ghosts, even murder, featuring women of shrewd calculation, secret sorrows, and deep sympathy."
— Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
“If anyone can make the Real Housewives look dull, it’s the women in this collection of darkly hilarious stories.”
“American Housewife is a raucous, whip-smart collection of stories featuring retro-feminist ladies who lunch, launch madcap getaway schemes, and whack their naughty doormen with kitchen stools.”
“The women in Helen Ellis’s stunning and very funny collection, American Housewife, are very, very real… After reading the book the first time in one sitting, I kept it on my nightstand, thumbing through it every now and then, imprinting the stories in my psyche. The state of the American housewife feels like old hat, but Ellis breathes life into the concept. The stories themselves are tricky, shiny jewels, and the women that populate them are tough nuts to crack, all sharp edges and elbows. They keep you on your toes.”
—Megan Reynolds, TheFrisky.com
"Deep and engaging… Delightfully unhinged… While her quippy observations will draw attention, the longer stories reveal a literate mind at work. Either she’s a genius at writing short or she spends hours paring away flabby phrasing to make each sentence so tight you can bounce a quarter off it… Ellis layers character quirks and details like tinder and a tepee of kindling in a bonfire and carefully positions plot developments to build the story’s heat and intensity.”
—Martha Sheridan, The Dallas Morning News
"Sorry, Andy Cohen: Ellis' collection of 12 short stories is far more entertaining than any recent episode of Real Housewives, no matter what drama Bravo manufactures. Ellis' ladies are hilarious, honest, and delightfully bizarre (you'll never look at a box of Tampax or a salad spinner the same)—and the type of group you'd love to have over for a dinner party (or just wine). We know the whole purpose of short stories is to be, well, short, but this book left us wishing that each of Ellis' characters had a novel of her own."
— Lynsey Eidell, Glamour.com
“Funny, biting, frequently dark… Think Megan Mullally's Karen Walker character (from "Will and Grace") meets Shirley Jackson… Ellis captures the exacting performance art and exquisite inner agony of the contemporary hausfrau in crisp prose that often rises to aphorism.”
—Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"This smart, utterly clever collection is evidence that there's always more than meets the eye — and that you should never underestimate a housewife.”
— Krystie Yandoli, Buzzfeed
“They smoke their eyes and paint their lips, listen to erotic audio books while scrubbing the bathroom floor, channel Beyoncé while hoovering, and are quietly capable of burglary, kidnapping, and murder. American Housewife is a collection of darkly comic short stories that explore what goes on behind the scenes in America’s homes.”
—Daniel Dalton, Buzzfeed
“A collection of 12 stories that skewer domesticity in hilarious style.”
"Lazy husbands, sociopathic mother-in-laws, offbeat book clubs and bra fittings take center stage in Ellis’ book, sure to leave readers either laughing, wincing or both at the same time... [D]elicious… Ellis paints a retro-feminist portrait of the modern-day housewife... They are stylish, assertive, graceful and deranged... If you seek solace in fearless women who can whip up Martha Stewart-style five course meals after having an epic breakdown, then this book is for you."
—Candace Smith, New York Daily News
“Helen Ellis picks apart the myths and ideas about what makes a housewife, painting a compelling and humorous portrait of one of society's favorite tropes…The women in American Housewife are fully realized, dangerous, and unflinching… The stories explore a fascinating dichotomy in our image of the housewife: as both a harmlessly feminine domestic goddess and a lioness who rules her own home.”
—Bridey Heing, Broadly
“Unforgettable… The world of American Housewife is stuffed with humor at every turn. Trust me, you need this book in your life.”
—Melissa Ragsdale, Bustle
“Delightfully dark stories of demented domesticity. Who hasn’t wanted to murder an uninvited guest or two? A fresh take on domestic womanhood and its evolving definitions.”
–Liberty Hardy, Book Riot
“Desperate doesn’t describe the housewives in Helen Ellis’ American Housewife—try uproariously, sharply, and darkly damn funny.”
Helen Ellis, raised in Alabama and a competitive poker player, placed her bet on fiction as the best window into the off-kilter world of pearls-and-lipstick domesticity… Hilarious.”
—The National Book Review
“This demented and funny story collection by a professional poker player and author turns a gimlet eye on the species of American women with a surfeit of rage, irony and time on their hands.”
—Tom Beer, Newsday
“Ellis’ characters are complex, funny, and edgy—much like Ellis herself.”
—Samantha Zabell, RealSimple.com
“The stories are a good mix of the sassy, the quirky, and the utterly creepy, congealing perfectly together like a good ol’ Jello salad—not unlike like the one that confused her New Yorker husband during his first visit at her parents’ years ago.”
—Alexandra Chiasson, Good Grit Magazine
“Stop whatever you’re doing and order Helen Ellis’s hilarious new collection of stories, American Housewife… Dark, sharp and laugh-out-loud-funny… Like a Bravo binge, Ellis’s book is best served with a bottle (or two) of wine.”
“Hilarious and moving, terrifying and shockingly strange, every page of American Housewife is driven by the fierce and fearless voice of Helen Ellis. Mixing together reality TV, book clubs, the Upper East Side and classic whodunits, these characters never forget to dab Chanel No. 5 behind their ears before murdering their neighbors. So sit back and enjoy the cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and let these ‘ladies who lunch’ tell you their stories of infidelity and infertility, of decorators and doormen, of love and failure and friendship and hope. On the outside, these housewives look like Jackie O. But on the inside they are all burning with passion and rage. This book is feminism with teeth and a southern drawl. Red lipstick and a baseball bat. And I could not stop reading and laughing and cheering each of these women over the finish line.”
—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
“If your best friend was brilliant and very funny and given to sudden profound or outrageous pronouncements and nevertheless cared about every detail of the world and found meaning there, positive and negative, and poured her heart into telling you stories, and if she had an instinct for breakdowns, how we are all given to them relentlessly in ways that are both hilarious and sympathetic, it might be something like reading this wonderful, charged, lyrical, intelligent book of short stories.”
—Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat and Other Stories
“The stories in American Housewife, by the lovely Helen Ellis, are outrageous and irreverent—code for totally relevant and utterly winning. Buy this book!”
—Hannah Pittard, author of Reunion and The Fates Will Find Their Way
“I finished American Housewife three days ago, and I'm still in withdrawal. I want to throw a cocktail party for Helen Ellis's beautiful, demented, touching heroines. I'd ply them with gin and Jell-O salad, admire their brooches, and force them to give up their deepest secrets. In other words, I wish I could read this exhilarating book all over again.”
— Eliza Kennedy, author of I Take You
Top Customer Reviews
This short story collection was what a lot of short story collections end up being for me: hit and miss (or, in this case, hit and so-so). It’s like when a Top Chef contestant makes a “duo of lamb, tuna, whatever” and the judges ding him/her because one half of the duo was great, but the other was merely average. So, the overall dish doesn’t work. I kind of expected to laugh out loud throughout this book and to encounter “yes, that’s exactly how it is” writing, but that really didn’t happen much. There were paragraphs here and there that were funny and spot-on, but few of the stories worked in their entirety for me. The two stories I really enjoyed (“Dumpster Diving with the Stars” and “The Fitter”) were a bit darker and longer than the others, allowing me to invest in the characters. Though this collection wasn’t an overall winner, it did help me clarify what types of short stories are more likely to appeal to me.
Check out my blog, Sarah's Book Shelves, for more reviews.
My favorite was Pageant Protection, about a woman that saves little girls from their pageant mothers by kidnapping them and setting them up with wealthy Manhattan couples as new parents. If only there was such a person out there, saving those poor little girls! I enjoyed the last story in the book as well and will never look at a box of Tampax the same. American Housewife is a tiny little book that will take you a couple of hours to read, tops, but it will keep you thinking about what it means to be an American housewife.
I started this collection of twisted tales in the lives of some very insane housewives on audio and later switched to the eGalley, as the stories somehow felt less bizarre in print. There's a seemingly perfect Manhattan housewife with a much darker side, a bra fitter whose spouse is having cancer treatments, and another housewife who talks to the dead in their own home, and a story with "Tampax" in its title as well.
Although some of the stories are sharp and funny can make you think about how absurd daily life can be at times I just didn't get what was supposed to be humor of some of the stories. There was talk of dead husbands and the loss of a child that felt rather flippant and way over the top. Overall, I think I was expecting the humor to be more in the line of how David Seders writes, so it felt a little disappointing in the end.
There is a slightly deranged lawyer that believes firmly in wainscotting, a housewife that panics at the sight of a cap with no Sharpie attached and drinks Dr Pepper through a Twizzler. There is a woman that competes on a reality show that features dumpster diving with the stars. Having lived in the South for some time myself, I laughed out loud while reading the pieces titled the southern lady code, how to be a grown ass lady, and how to be a patron of the arts.
Devilish and deranged and absolutely hilarious short stories about American housewives. Enjoy these brilliant nuggets from author Helen Ellis, the last one brought to you by the good people at Tampax. (You'll have to read it to find out why!)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a quick read. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it kept me interested. If you are looking for a book to get through in one sitting, this is it.Published 4 days ago by Kim S.
Meh. I wasn't drawn in to these stories. Maybe I'm too ordinary, or not ordinary enough, but the housewives presented here are just too unreal to tickle my fancy. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Kathleen Derevan
I actually really like the author who comes through in these stories. I think she would an interesting dinner guest to say the least! Read morePublished 5 days ago by Rebecca
"You don't have to chase every bird you see." from "Take It From Cats."
This is a funny, horrifying collection of stories, although some I wouldn't call... Read more
I love the brief vignettes and glimpses into the lives of several very interesting situations, all tondo with being a wife, mom or ex wife.Published 14 days ago by Jordan