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The Understory Hardcover – December 2, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


''Leiknes's love for the interconnectedness of human stories is contagious. Story Easton, the aptly named heroine of this cheeky and irreverent fairy tale, has a charming case of literary Tourette syndrome (among other enchanting quirks) and is a delight to tag along with on her week-long attempt to make a success of herself. Layer by layer, laugh by laugh, The Understory shows Leiknes's talents in full bloom.''

--Ben Rogers, author of acclaimed novel The Flamer, and recipient of a Nevada Arts Council Fellowship and two Sierra Arts Foundation Literary Artist Endowment Grants

''Elizabeth Leiknes, the author, has got to become one of my favorite authors in this world. The writing style, it's kind of staccato almost--very nice beat and rhythm to it. It almost has the same style as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I actually added this to my top ten books . . . ever written.''

--Josiah Morgan, 11-year-old YouTube reviewer, New Zealand

About the Author

Elizabeth Leiknes grew up in rural Iowa and can make thirty-seven different dishes featuring corn. She attended the University of Iowa as an undergrad, and the University of Nevada, Reno for her Masters.

Her previous published novel is The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns. Black-Eyed Susan, Future Perfect, and Let Them Eat Corn are works in progress.

The inspiration for The Understory came one night while reading her sons a bedtime story about the rainforest.

Elizabeth has a love/hate relationship with great white sharks, and a slight penchant for speaking in hyperbole, which she says she never does.

She now lives near Lake Tahoe, Nevada, with her husband, and two sons, Hardy and Hatcher. She also teaches English there.

If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $1.99 (Save 75%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Bancroft Press (December 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610880498
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610880497
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,519,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Leiknes's second novel is a memorable tale of failure and self-discovery, weaving the lives of seemingly disconnected people into a story of hope.

Story Easton is a twenty-nine-year-old woman without a story. She knows the beginning, but in seeking the plot of her life, she only finds failure. Failing to live up to her mother's standards while missing the father who left her too soon, she bitterly longs to fill someone else's shoes; any stranger will do.

Writing happy but false greeting cards by day, and breaking into strangers' homes by night, her escape from her own life leads her to become almost an omniscient presence in the lives of others who have lost someone loved. Failure, her life's existence, is no longer an option.

Cooper, an eight-year-old boy, who has nearly lost his faith in magic and destiny, needs to believe that Story will complete the promised birthday adventure that his father can no longer fulfill. There is a treasure box hidden in the Amazon that holds inside it something magical that will help a grieving boy heal.

Martin Baxter wrote a book for his daughter, Hope, about the Amazon, called, "Once upon a Moonflower," that told of a treasure box and a very special plant. He mourns the death of her and his wife now as he seeks closure, planning his trip to the Amazon to seek out the flower that his own mother once searched for long ago.

Cooper's mother, Claire, is left alone to care for her son, so tired of reading him Martin Baxter's book every night that she must seek solace in swearing at her parrot.

Story cannot fix these people, but maybe she can help them ' If only she weren't such a failure.

Hans, the handyman magician, can fix Story, so he thinks.
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Format: Hardcover
You guys probably know that I've now instituted strict guidelines for what I'm allowed to request on NetGalley. This book is a perfect example for why this makes me sad. Under my new rules, I would not have requested this book, and I would have missed out big time. This book charmed me immediately, even though I had no expectations for it. I knew nothing about it, and the cover is incredibly lame, but something made me request it and I am so glad I did. This is the bonus of requesting ALL THE THINGS: you find books you might otherwise never have read.

First off, let me talk about the writing in The Understory. Elizabeth Leiknes has a way with words, guys. She is so clever and incredibly hilarious. So many lines in this book made me laugh out loud. Also, she swears, not constantly but to great effect. So if you're offended by swearing, this book will not be for you. If you are amused by it, you'll love it. I also loved that though her writing is quite beautiful, it also feels very natural, in the dialogue as well.

The Understory is, more than anything, about the serendipitous connections between certain people. Told in a fairy tale type manner, characters come together in a way that is either entirely coincidental or fated. Either way, everyone finds the people that they need in their lives. They come together in the perfect way to fix broken hearts, to move on in grief, to realize strength, and to grow up. I loved this. This is what I want life to be like. The subtle magic running through the story, though not actually MAGIC like in a fantasy novel, reminds me strongly of Sarah Addison Allen (who I love). Though there wasn't any legit magic, this book felt hella magical to me.

The characters in this book are amazing.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a story about the interconnectedness of the human condition and how words can be the catalysts that cause some of the greatest elevations of the human soul.
Story Easton is a woman so eager to shed the tattered rags of her life that she slips stealthily into the lives of others in the dead of night by way of unlocked windows, untended doors, and empty rooms.
The stories that she reads on the faces, in the voices, and in the houses of all the lives that she enters serve as a call to action for Story.
Her key...
Once Upon a Moonflower
The story of the magic of the Amazon rainforest and a girl who was once the magic of her father's life.

Just as the shrubs and plants that grow beneath the canopy of a forest are its understory; the pain, loss , and regret shared by Cooper, Claire, Martin, Hans, and Story serve as the floor from which the seeds of love, forgiveness, understanding, determination and hope sprout and flourish.

The true magic of this story lies in the fact that the one tangible thing that connects all of these lives is just that...a story. The one thing that offers hope, release, and redemption is the written word.
This book stands as its own testament to the alchemical power of literature to transform thought into action and action into transformation of the force that is life.
*This review was cross posted from my blog.
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Format: Kindle Edition
By Elizabeth Leiknes
254 pages; Bancroft Press, Published June 1, 2012

The Understory by Elizabeth Leiknes is an ultimately uplifting tale that shows the power of endurance of the human soul, even under the most tragic circumstances. The lives of Story Easton and a handful of other residents of Phoenix, Arizona unwind before our eyes; revealing intertwinings and connections of a complex nature between those we would otherwise consider strangers--much as the plants and animals of the rain forest are all interconnected to form a dense and complex, living, breathing ecosystem. The rain forest does, indeed, feature prominently in this story.

Our heroine, Story Easton is a bit down and out and views herself as a failure at pretty much everything. A domineering mother has quashed any self confidence ever mustered up by Story. Through a series of seemingly unrelated circumstances, she meets some people who are about to change all that. These people, although never having met each other, are very much interconnected with each other; and now with Story is about to become a part of their lives, too. They include a little boy, who has been crushed by a devastating loss and only Story has the key to set his life back on track.

It's heartening to watch as Story realizes that for the first time, she just may succeed at something! Not only that--she MUST succeed. And in the process, she may just have found Mr. Right, as well. Her path to a better perception of herself and those around her, is a heartwarming one for us to follow. Story finds herself both a tool and a recipient of the power of healing.

This novel was a very enjoyable read and I found myself getting hooked on the story early on.
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