Tuesday 31 October 2017

Why Stuff Matters by Jen Waldo @ArcadiaBooks #BlogTour

 When Jessica, a grieving widow, inherits an antique mall from her mother she also inherits the stallholders, an elderly, amoral, acquisitive, and paranoid collection.

When one of the vendors, a wily ex-con named Roxy, shoots her ex-husband, she calls on Jessica to help bury the body and soon Jessica is embroiled in cover-ups, lies, and misdirection.  
Into this mix comes Lizzie, Jessica's late husband's twelve-year-old daughter by his first marriage, who's been dumped on Jessica's doorstep by the child's self-absorbed mother and it soon becomes apparent that Lizzie is as obsessed with material possessions as Jessica's elderly tenants.

Why Stuff Matters is a compelling ode to possession, why people like things and the curious lengths they will go to keep them. Returning to her fictional Caprock, Waldo turns her wry wit on the lives of those afraid to let go.

Why Stuff Matters by Jen Waldo was published in hardback by Arcadia Books on 19 October 2017 and is the author's second novel.  Her debut novel, Old Buildings in North Texas is also published by Arcadia.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.

I haven't read Jen Waldo's first novel, so had no idea what to expect from this book. I was intrigued by both the title and the cover of this quirky and original little book. It's a short book at just under 200 pages, but it's a wonderful read. I laughed and I gasped, in equal measures!

Set in the small sleepy town of Caprock in Texas; Why Stuff Matters is a wonderfully written story that is both engaging and funny. Packed to the rafters with some amazing characters, it's a novel that touches on many themes.

Jessica has returned to Caprock after many years away. Her mother has recently died and Jessica is now in charge of a sprawling antiques mall. The tenants are all elderly, and all hold on to their possessions with a passion that is bordering on the obsessive. There are few sales made in this mall, and each one of the tenants has their own story to tell.

Jessica is something of an enigma. She appears to be a cold, ruthless women, with few things to endear her to the reader, yet as her story is slowly revealed, the reader comes to understand her, and why she acts like she does. There's a overwhelming air of sadness about her and the events from her tragic background consume her, and impact on her actions and her thoughts.

There's a storyline running through Why Stuff Matters that centres on eighty-something Roxy. Roxy takes no prisoners and soon Jessica is caught up in the sometimes preposterous things that she does.  Whilst Roxy's exploits with a dead man's handgun, two ex husbands and an insurance investigator could be seen as a little outlandish, the author's handling of this really does fit in well with the rest of the story.

Alongside the elderly tenants of the mall, with their quirks and their wily ways of holding on to their possessions, there's a much younger character; Lizzie.  
Lizzie is Jessica's step-daughter who is dumped on her doorstep by her wanna-be artist mother. Neither Jessica or Lizzie are pleased with this, but gradually, over the course of a few weeks, both of them settle into something of a routine. It becomes clear that Lizzie, like the elderly antique stall holders, also cares deeply about possessions, and at times is happy to take them, even if they don't belong to her.

This really is a story about relationships, both between people and also how we value the things that surround us. Jen Waldo writes with incredible insight into the human psyche, and is also very witty with it. I loved these characters, they felt real. I could see them, and the mall. I could feel Jessica's exhaustion, yet admired her loyalty to these people who gave little back to her.

A thought provoking, funny and heartwarming story that will make the reader smile.

Jen Waldo lives in Texas, where her novels are set.
She took up writing years ago when, living in Cairo, she had difficulty finding reading material.
Since then she has joined writers' groups in Holland, Scotland, England, the US, and Singapore.
She's earned an MFA, has been published in The European, and has been shortlisted in a competition by Traveler.
Why Stuff Matters is her second novel.
Her debut novel, Old Buildings in Texas, is also published by Arcadia Books.

Visit Jen at www.jenwaldo.com

From www.jenwaldo,com

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