American Homemaker, by John Kaine

Short Take:  Finally! Proof that a messy house is a sign of a healthy psyche.

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Hello, my duckies, from the land of Finally Fall! The leaves aren’t quite ready to change, but the temperature is finally below “the air is lava” and you guys know what that means, right? Halloween is coming, and I for one am all about horror movie marathons and shamelessly exploiting my adorable progeny for lots and lots of candy.

Speaking of shamelessly exploiting people, let me introduce you to American Homemaker.

Kim Loomis Has It All. She’s a successful-enough businesswoman (in a small town like Montpelier, the three competing funeral homes only get so much business), always dressed perfectly in the latest most expensive clothes, and president of the Homemakers Association of Vermont.

The last accomplishment isn’t quite as prestigious as it sounds, as the HAV only has three other members at the moment, but Kim has big plans. Of course, with such a small group of women, a certain amount of jealousy and gossip is bound to ensue, but seriously…. How DOES Kim afford the clothes, Mercedes, and everything else with such a limited client base? The more Kim glosses over the truth of her lifestyle, the more determined club member Megan becomes to unearth her secret.

In another state (and really, another world) Melody Morgan has a thriving career, because let’s face it: As long as spouses leave crumbs on the counter and toothpaste in the sink, there will ALWAYS be a market for contract killers. She can’t exactly show off her wealth or brag about her skills, and she has to keep her social circle small, of course. After the job that was supposed to be her last Goes Horribly Wrong, Melody finds herself in the crosshairs of some very, very bad people.

And back in scenic, quaint Montpelier, a twelve year old boy has gone missing, and a whole lot of horrific long-buried truths might be exposed to the light at last.

Y’all, this one is BANANAS. For 370-ish pages, there’s an insane amount of story. We get the perspectives of not only Kim & Melody, but also the kidnapped Evan and his best friend Corey, Corey’s dad, at least one particularly murderous member of a ruthless drug cartel, and all of the ladies of the club. Virtually all of the women in this story are egocentric, obsessive, and unlikable, and not-coincidentally, tremendously entertaining. 

And, my beloved nerdlings, do you really need me to tell you that twists and turns abound? Because they do, oh, do they ever. But in American Homemaker, it’s not so much about the twisty plot or crazy-sudden outbursts of violence. No, this one is all about the characters, and how bad people can do good things and vice versa, and how notions like good and bad can always be contorted into each other to the point that they don’t matter anyway. Not to mention a uniquely American strain of image-conscious sociopathy that seems to be taking over the world.

(Let me briefly interject that I seem to be immune to that one, I’m quite comfy in my slovenly skin, thank you very much, and I have zero desire to “curate” anything ever.)

There’s so much discussion to be had, so many twists within turns and ugly secrets within outward perfection that I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface of a single facet of a priceless gem.

Which is why the ending was such a shock. Of course this will always be a spoiler free zone, but after spending so much tension-filled time with a main character, it was a bucket of ice water to the sensitive parts when the camera cut away from them.

To Mr. Kaine’s credit, American Homemaker doesn’t have the cash-grab sequel-setup feel that I have come to loathe, and most of the major plotlines are wrapped up in perfectly fulfilling ways, but the ambiguity of that one person’s fate still doesn’t sit quite right. The best stories leave you wanting more, but this one just left me feeling a bit deprived. Granted, it’s easy enough to imagine what happens next, but it’s just not the same.

Definitely still worth the ride though.

The Nerd’s Rating: FOUR HAPPY NEURONS (and a bucket full of Reese’s cups, because if Walmart can start Christmas right now, I can start Halloween.)

fourhappyneurons

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