Book Review: American Housewife by Helen Ellis

One-star summary:

American Housewife is a fictional collection of short stories by Helen Ellis, taking a dark look at femininity and wifehood.

I didn’t read the summary before checking out this book. I simply saw it show up in a couple of Goodreads feeds, thought it seemed interesting, and downloaded.

In truth, I thought it might be a saccharine, somewhat harried but ultimately heartwarming memoir of what it is to be a wife and or mother.

This is not that.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming, fluffy book on womanhood, American Housewife is not the book for you.

Here’s what American Housewife is: a dark, dark, dark fictional look at females. At their claws (and WOW do these women have claws!), at their flaws (WOW are there a lot of flaws!) and guffaws (all of them at least somewhat mean-spirited, of course).

These are the women who will slit your throat, pat their chignons back into place, then make their husbands dry martinis. All done with a pleasant sing-song voice and a “bless your heart.”

Luckily, I like dark. I’m not scared off by this book. I’m fascinated by it.

Here’s what American Housewife is not: something to be taken too seriously. It’s not a manifesto for disenfranchised women to rise up and start wielding knives.

I can see, however, that the women pictured here may scare some people sh*tless.

In one story, the wife murders the help, one by one, eliminating them as efficiently as she does the stain in the rug. In another, women wage a fight to the death over wainscoting. Another features a feminine hygiene company holding the strings (heh heh, strings) in a woman’s life.

American Housewife shows the very darkest sides of women. Dark and unrealistic. Women are not all light. But nor are their dark corners as nefarious as this. It swings the happy-go-lucky pendulum a little too heavily to the opposite direction.

But boy, is it a fun page-turner!

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