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Self Storage: A Novel Paperback – February 12, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 283 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345492617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345492616
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,801,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Flan Parker is floundering: her sweet but hapless husband, Shae, is procrastinating on finishing his dissertation, their young children are running wild, and the beloved yard sales she holds in their University of California-Riverside student housing cul-de-sac are under fire from the housing office. Then Flan becomes fascinated with her Afghani neighbors, particularly the wife, Sodaba, hidden beneath a burqa. When Sodaba, pulling into her driveway, accidentally runs over Flan's daughter, racial tension in the community is heightened. The unlikely friendship that develops between Sodaba and Flan in the accident's aftermath sparks its share of trouble as the FBI begins investigating Sodaba's husband for suspected ties to terrorism. Flan is an endearing, juicy character: well-intentioned, less than perfect, with a love of the old and faded (the ancient copy of Leaves of Grass she totes around and frequently quotes, for instance). Unfortunately, the inevitable political discussions (the book is set in the summer of 2002, and fears of another 9/11-style attack run rampant) are unsatisfying and banal. Brandeis, a winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for Fiction (described as "in support of a literature of social change), clearly wants to provoke social reflection. The book is most powerful when focusing on small, intimate moments. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

The Book of Dead Birds (2003), Brandeis' debut, won Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize. In her second brisk, covertly trenchant novel, Brandeis manages to weave Walt Whitman, 9/11, and secondhand goods into a provocative story about the nature of one's self and the intrinsically human need to find meaning in life. Flannery cherishes an old edition of Leaves of Grass, her only bequest from her long-deceased mother. With Whitman as her spiritual guide, she lives hand-to-mouth with her soap-opera-addicted graduate-student husband, high-strung young son, and escape-artist toddler daughter in a Riverside, California, enclave for international scholars. To make ends meet, Flan buys and resells the auctioned-off, memory-laden contents of abandoned self-storage units. As though life isn't precarious enough, Flan is drawn into a high-stakes drama involving her burka-wearing Afghan neighbor, the target of prejudice and hate crimes. Executing a marvelous narrative sleight of hand, Brandeis uses slyly insouciant humor and irresistible characters to delve into the true significance of neighborliness, advocate for doing the right thing, and celebrate a Whitmanesque embrace of life. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

I am the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperSanFrancisco), The Book of Dead Birds: A Novel (HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change, Self Storage (Ballantine), Delta Girls (Ballantine) and my first novel for young readers, My Life with the Lincolns (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). The Book of Live Wires, the sequel to The Book of Dead Birds, is available now exclusively as an ebook. You can visit me at www.gaylebrandeis.com. It's always a pleasure to hear from readers.

Customer Reviews

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I recommend this book to EVERYone and I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.
H. Al-Saadoon
Sometimes feeling compassion for them, sometimes frustration, but always feeling them - and that makes these characters real.
Michael Kurth
This is a very enjoyable book with a likeable character whose daily life we can relate to.
R. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on February 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Gayle Brandeis, winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change (THE BOOK OF DEAD BIRDS), has penned another novel that is both engaging as a story and timely in subject matter. In it, she expertly flings a cartload of characters searching for love, security and identity into a melting pot infused with political upheaval, fear and post-9/11 muck. The result is a book that is both chaotic and solid, frightening and incredibly touching.

Aptly titled SELF STORAGE, the narrative focuses on the business of the self and how we as humans store the "stuff" that makes up both our inner core and our external appearance, using Walt Whitman's gorgeous LEAVES OF GRASS/"Song of Myself" as its guide. All the main characters struggle valiantly with this process --- some successful, others not --- in order to define what of themselves is private and what can be shared openly with others. The book also addresses identity on a larger scale, and confronts both how we relate to others in our surrounding communities and how we receive and are perceived in the world. Given that the story takes place in our contemporary, war-torn world, the white characters have a much more carefree, privileged outlook on life and its prospects, while the Arabs are relegated to prejudicial treatment, confinement and secrecy.

In brief, SELF STORAGE is a post-gloom-and-doom/pre-sorted out tale of two families thrown together just months after the Twin Towers' demise. Twenty-eight-year-old Flan (Flannery) Parker, her husband (Shae) and two young children (Nori and Noodle) are barely scraping by in their shoddy university housing complex in Riverside, California.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This novel did a good job of capturing the American climate in the post 9-11 world. The instant suspicions of the others living in the graduate housing due to their neighbors' obvious Afghan origins rang very true. It seems that after that tragic day merely being Arabic makes a person instantly suspect, much like merely being Japanese made people instantly suspect during World War II. Brandeis does a nice job of pointing out how quickly we resort to prejudice due to a sort of paranoia caused by a tragedy of such epic scale.

Some of the plotting, however, was a real stretch and some things were left rather unfinished. I would have liked to see more development of the relationship between the main character and her Afghani neighbor. I'm also not quite sure I bought the reconciliation between husband and wife at the end as it seems to me that their marital problems were far too deeply rooted for such swift resolution.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J. Berry on April 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately, I could not get past the fact that I couldn't understand or like the protagonist, Flan, and I found her husband devoid of redeeming characteristics during the first half of the book (although he still failed to come together for me). So many things about these characters did not seem to add up to persons I wanted to keep reading about, and they did not seem to grow in ways that I could believe.

For example, it disturbed me greatly that Flan and Shae/Shake were so eager to blame the neighbor for an accident that they were at least equally responsible for. Yet despite blaming the neighbor and continuing to harbor many racist notions toward her, Flan was willing to go so far out on a limb for her ... why? And why did Flan's interest in her father seem to completely disappear from the day she checked his website until the end of the book?

I vacillated between savoring Gayle Brandeis' prose, as I had while reading her first book (which I adored), and wanting to rush through it quickly so I could stop spending time with these annoying characters and marginal parents. I was intrigued by the peripheral characters and found myself at times wishing the book were about them. (However, here too I might have been asking myself why otherwise intelligent and upfront people did not bother to level with Flan.)

It pains me to share these impressions, because I am so taken with Gayle Brandeis' work and her talent for the most part. And even here, I loved the beautifully woven tale, amazing prose, and exploration of issues that resonate with the reader. I excitedly await her future work.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Suzie Eller on April 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Aside from the "say yes" and the social commentaries that others are trying to make about Self Storage, I just found it to be a fun read. I didn't find it life changing, and I didn't want to run out and say "yes". It filled my afternoon. I liked the honesty of Flan's character, and was a bit puzzled by Shae's character, and wished I could have known more about her neighbor, and the ending left me a bit confused. But all in all, I love the writing and the quirkiness of the woman who found her treasures in Self Storage.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Kurth on April 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Self Storage is about self exploration and discovering what makes you say YES to life. The story is layered on deeply flawed characters who don't know where their source of joy is, and is movingly woven together with lines from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself".

Gayle Brandeis' characters, and the world she has created, work their way through the book with purposeful discord that creates its own energy and draws the reader in. Sometimes feeling compassion for them, sometimes frustration, but always feeling them - and that makes these characters real.

This book is getting a lot of important coverage because it addresses racial discrimination, profiling, our hyper-security focused culture, and the need for people to realize we are all human beings and desperately need to move past our fear and discord and find what brings us all together and say YES to ourselves and the world we live in.

Self Storage is a delight to read, and I highly recommend it.
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