Other People’s Houses
By Abbi Waxman
Read by Saskia Maarleveld
Published by Penguin Audio an imprint of Penguin Random House Audio
Apr 03, 2018
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
“Abbi Waxman is both irreverent and thoughtful.”–#1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin
Abbi Waxman is both irreverent and thoughtful.”–#1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin Named A Highly Anticipated Book for 2018 by InStyle online, Elite Daily, and Hello Giggles! The author of The Garden of Small Beginnings returns with a hilarious and poignant new novel about four families, their neighborhood carpool, and the affair that changes everything. At any given moment in other people’s houses, you can find…repressed hopes and dreams…moments of unexpected joy…someone making love on the floor to a man who is most definitely not her husband… *record scratch* As the longtime local carpool mom, Frances Bloom is sometimes an unwilling witness to her neighbors’ private lives. She knows her cousin is hiding her desire for another baby from her spouse, Bill Horton’s wife is mysteriously missing, and now this… After the shock of seeing Anne Porter in all her extramarital glory, Frances vows to stay in her own lane. But that’s a notion easier said than done when Anne’s husband throws her out a couple of days later. The repercussions of the affair reverberate through the four carpool families–and Frances finds herself navigating a moral minefield that could make or break a marriage. http://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/557652/other-peoples-houses/
I listened to Abbi Waxman’s first book, connected to this one, and thought it heartfelt and extremely well done. This book is also well done but doesn’t include the obviously sympathetic characters of a blameless widow and a good guy who wants to be her boyfriend.
The characters here are more complex and not as black and white. Frances is the woman at the center of the neighborhood but is that from her goodness of her heart or a need to feel needed. Her husband adores her but drinks too much. Ann always looks perfect and loves her husband but her beauty and control stem from a deep depression and some sort of marital dissatisfaction. Her husband is blindsided. But he and everyone else obviously failed to notice that Ann’s control is tenuous and depressive and that she spends a lot of time puking and knows strategies to avoid them knowing.
The lesbian moms (one is Frances’ cousin) down the street a movie star and an agent have one kid but one wants another. But they don’t talk about it. Everyone has a secret, including the guy whose wife has disappeared – there’s half-hearted chatter among the neighbors that he’s killed her.
This is the complicated life of the idea of a contemporary suburban neighborhood; the “Desperate Housewives” neighborhood. In reality, I don’t believe there are many people these days with enough time and connection to be this involved with their neighbors. That Frances’s cousin is part of the neighborhood makes the probability of closeness more likely. In the first book THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS the close relationships are family and friends of long standing. This one is more about children sharing schools and soccer leagues and adultery. Nevertheless, Waxman has her finger on the pulse of suburbia.
I was mostly impressed by the tree that disseminated “information” as incorrect gossip. It was shared with a cold glee, even by the nicest people in the neighborhood. Gossip is exciting when your life revolves around child care.
There are other things that are important in the book: relationship, the different levels of sexuality in marriages, the sacrifices, and mistakes, parents make.
I have listened to the book one and a half times. It is engaging and complicated. I was aggravated by the behavior of the characters: especially one husband. Ugh, the ego! The characters are enigmas: Frances, deceptively strong and Ann deceptively weak, men too tired for sex, but resentful of its lack.
The narracting is excellent: strong, varied voices with consistency in the characters. As a woman, she does the male characters particularly well, not inappropriately belligerent except when they should be.
This book and THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS are an engaging look at modern life, or an imagined microcosm of modern life. It is fascinating and frustrating. Check it out!