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Self Storageby Gayle. Brandeis
Synopses & Reviews
Flan Parker has always had an inquisitive mind, searching for what's hidden below the surface and behind the door. Her curious nature and enthusiastic probing have translated into a thriving resale business in the university housing complex where she lives with her husband and two young children. Flan's venture helps pay the bills while her husband works on his dissertation, work that lately seems to involve more loafing on the sofa watching soap operas than reading or writing. The secret of her enterprising success: unique and everyday treasures bought from the auctions of forgotten and abandoned storage units.
When Flan secures the winning bid on a box filled only with an address and a note bearing the word — yes, — she sets out to discover the source of this mysterious message and its meaning. Armed with a well-worn copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass that she turns to for guidance and solace, Flan becomes determined to find the — yes — in her own life. This search inward only strengthens her desire to unearth the hidden stories of those around her — in particular, her burqa-clad Afghan neighbor. Flan's interest in this intriguing and secretive woman, however, comes at a formidable price for Flan and her family.
Set during the year following the September 11 attacks, Self Storage explores the raw insecurities of a changed society. With lush writing, great humor, and a genuine heart, Gayle Brandeis takes a peek into the souls of a woman and a community — and reveals that it is not our differences that drive us apart but our willful concealment of the qualities that connect us.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Peppered with wry wit and Walt Whitman, Self Storage is a skillfully told treasure hunter's tale of compassion, coming of age, and, most importantly, transforming the life you've got into the life you want." Maria Dahvana Headley, author of The Year of Yes
"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." Booklist
"A novel of passion and consequence, identity and accountability. I love the narrator, her children, her wild ride, and this truly American story of getting mad and getting wise." Barbara Kingsolver
"Parts feel forced...but readers will identify with Flans quest to go beyond the daily grind." Library Journal
"If you doubt that a deadly serious thread– also somehow all but laugh-out-loud funny — can connect the pillage of metal storage units, the fierce devotion of family, the rape of human sensibility, and the pursuit of art, read Self Storage by Gayle Brandeis. Or better yet, just take the hand of its greathearted and deeply bewildered heroine, Flan, and hang on for the ride." Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of Cage of Stars
"The personal and the political collide in Gayle Brandeis's complex and witty new Self Storage....[The] novel illuminates the way we define our loved ones, our neighbors, and ourselves." Amanda Eyre Ward, author of How to be Lost
"Gayle Brandeis's marvelous new novel is a rare thing: a story of love, marriage, and friendship that stirs our most tender emotions without manipulation or bathos." Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
"Beautifully written and warmed with wit, this is a bold, brave meditation on both the family and the whole family of man." Caroline Leavitt, author of Girls in Trouble
"Deftly plotted and engagingly told, Gayle Brandeis's new novel is a suspenseful, thought-provoking, and inspiring exploration of what it means to be a sensitive and thoughtful human being living in George W. Bush's America." Adam Langer, authorof Crossing California
"Brandeis writes in sprightly and unembellished first-person prose, capturing Flan's wry humor and her carefree, sometimes careless life." Los Angeles Times
About the Author
Gayle Brandeis is the author of The Book of Dead Birds, the winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize, an award in support of a literature of social change. Reviewers have highly praised this, her first novel, and Toni Morrison said: "It has an edgy beauty that enhances perfectly the seriousness of its contents." She is also the author. Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write.
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