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American Housewife
Cover of American Housewife
American Housewife
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A sharp, funny, delightfully unhinged collection of stories set in the dark world of domesticity, American Housewife features murderous ladies who lunch, celebrity treasure hunters, and the best bra fitter south of the Mason Dixon line.

Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it's cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it's a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven. These twelve irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop. Vicious, fresh, and nutty as a poisoned Goo Goo Cluster, American Housewife is an uproarious, pointed commentary on womanhood.
A sharp, funny, delightfully unhinged collection of stories set in the dark world of domesticity, American Housewife features murderous ladies who lunch, celebrity treasure hunters, and the best bra fitter south of the Mason Dixon line.

Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it's cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it's a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven. These twelve irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop. Vicious, fresh, and nutty as a poisoned Goo Goo Cluster, American Housewife is an uproarious, pointed commentary on womanhood.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book WHAT I DO ALL DAY

    Inspired by Beyoncé, I stallion-walk to the toaster. I show my husband a burnt spot that looks like the island where we honeymooned, kiss him good-bye, and tell him what time to be home for our party.

    I go to the grocery store and find that everyone else has gone to the grocery store and, as I maneuver my cart through Chips and Nuts traffic, I get grocery aisle rage. I see a lost child and assume it's an angry ghost. Fearing cold and flu season, I fist-bump the credit card signature pad.

    Back home, I get a sickening feeling and am relieved to find out it's just my husband's coat hung the wrong way in a closet. I break into a sweat when I find a Sharpie cap, but not the pen. I answer my phone and scream obscenities at an automated call. I worry the Butterball hotline ladies are lonely. I follow a cat on Twitter and click "view photo" when a caption reads: "#YUCK." I regret clicking that photo. I weep because I am lucky enough to have a drawer just for glitter.

    I shred cheese. I berate a pickle jar. I pump the salad spinner like a CPR dummy. I strangle defrosted spinach and soak things in brandy. I casserole. I pinwheel. I toothpick. I bacon. I iron a tablecloth and think about eating lint from the dryer, but then think better of that because I am sane. I rearrange furniture like a Neanderthal. I mayonnaise water rings. I level picture frames.

    I take a break and drink Dr Pepper through a Twizzler. I watch ten minutes of my favorite movie on TV and lip-synch Molly Ringwald: "I loathe the bus." I know every word. Sixteen Candles is my Star Wars. I hop in the shower and assure myself that behind every good woman is a little back fat. I cry because I don't have the upper-arm strength to flatiron my hair. I mascara my gray roots. I smoke my eyes. I paint my lips. I drown my sorrows with Chanel No. 5.

    At the party, I kiss my husband hello. I loathe guests who sneeze into the crooks of their elbows. I can't be convinced winter white is a thing. I study long-married couples and decide that wives are like bras: sometimes the most matronly are the most supportive.

    I feign interest in skiing, golf, politics, religion, owl collections, shell collections, charity benefits, school fund-raisers, green juice, the return of eighties step classes, the return of nineties grunge, a resurgence of bridge clubs, and Ping-Pong mania.

    I say, "My breath is the Pinot Grigio-est."

    I say, "I am perfectly happy not being a Kennedy."

    I say, "I'd watch a show called Ghost Hoarders. Why is that not a show?"

    I say, "You can take your want of a chocolate fountain and go straight to hell."

    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.

About the Author-
  • HELEN ELLIS is the acclaimed author of Eating the Cheshire Cat. She is a poker player who competes on the national tournament circuit. Raised in Alabama, she lives with her husband in New York City.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 12, 2015
    Ellis, a professional poker player and author (Eating the Cheshire Cat), turns domesticity on its head in her darkly funny 12-story collection, featuring hausfraus in various stages of unraveling. These wives are not like the perfect 1970s-mom Carol Brady, the blue-collar Roseanne Conner, or even the tightly wound Claire Dunphy. Ellis immediately sets the tone in “What I Do All Day,” about a modern Stepford Wife—she is “lucky enough to have a drawer just for glitter”—with bite. In the rest of the collection, women become involved in increasingly hostile epistolary e-fights over wainscoting in a shared hallway (“The Wainscoting War”), speak in codes that require translation (“Southern Lady Code”), and take their book club to a whole new level (“Hello! Welcome to Book Club”). One wife finds a fiendish way to contend with a domineering mother-in-law and the son she raised (“Dead Doormen”); another finds that having a significant following on social media doesn’t save her from her book sponsor’s ruthlessness in actually getting the thing written (“My Book Is Brought to You by the Good People at Tampax”). Ellis hits the satirical bull’s-eye with a deliciously dry, smart voice that will have readers flipping the pages in delight. Agent: Susanna Einstein, Einstein Literary Management.

  • Kirkus

    October 1, 2015
    The wives in these guffaw-out-loud short stories by novelist Ellis (The Turning Book: What Curiosity Kills, 2010, etc.) are a wonderfully wacky crew. At first glance, the women in this pointedly peculiar collection may seem like familiar characters]jealous wives, inconsiderate neighbors, procrastinating writers]yet, often, it's not long before they and their stories build from a chug to a mad hurtle, take a sharp turn in an unexpected direction, and careen completely and crazily off the rails. In "The Wainscoting War," two neighbors correspond about their shared vestibule, and over the course of a handful of emails, build from "Thank you for the welcome gift basket you left outside our apartment door" to a high-stakes face-off in a common hallway at high noon. In "The Fitter," one of the book's sweeter, gentler stories, the wife of a small-town Georgia man with a "pilgrimage-worthy" gift for fitting women with the perfect bra]"part good old boy, part miracle worker"]reluctantly releases him to the woman she suspects will replace her after she succumbs to the illness that has rid her of her own "body meant for tight sweaters." In "Dead Doormen," a woman who initially appears to be a perfectly devoted housewife, catering to her husband's needs in the vast Manhattan prewar penthouse apartment left to him by his mother, slowly comes into focus as something significantly more sinister. The 12 stories here cheekily tackle subjects ranging from neighborhood book clubs to reality TV shows, and while a few of them feel, sadly, like filler, breaking up the madcap momentum, on the whole, they are deliciously dark and deliriously deranged. This amusingly offbeat collection treats us to an unusual array of characters as if it were offering up a plate of clever canapes. Maybe just don't try to devour them all at once.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from December 1, 2015

    Professional poker player and author (Eating the Cheshire Cat) Ellis's latest is a collection of delightful short stories that turn the stereotypical housewife ideal on its head. Each one centers on the trials and tribulations of a particular housewife, whether she is hunting for yard sale treasures on reality television, conversing with the dead in her haunted luxury apartment, or literally battling neighbors over the decor of a hallway common area. Many of the characters are writers launching comebacks, or those coming to peace with their lack of writing while embracing a twist on domesticity. VERDICT Each story is lively and active. The hilarity of each premise will pull in readers, and the twists will keep them glued to the pages. Anyone who has ever contemplated having a drawer specifically for glitter or has felt awkwardly settled into the domestic life will appreciate this not-to-be-missed collection.--Mara Dabrishus, Ursuline Coll. Lib., Pepper Pike, OH

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Patricia Park, The New York Times Book Review "Macabre does not even begin to describe this collection steeped in the Southern Gothic tradition. Flannery O'Connor would turn green with equal parts sick and envy.... [T]his dark, deadpan and truly inventive collection is one you'll wish to relish long after its sell-by date."
  • Heller McAlpin, NPR "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."
  • Claire Luchette, Elle.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."
  • Martha Sheridan, The Dallas Morning News "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."
  • Samantha Zabell, RealSimple.com "Ellis' characters are complex, funny, and edgy--much like Ellis herself."
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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