IN NORTH TEXAS
Sub-genre: Literary Fiction / Dramedy
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: April 1, 2018
Number of Pages: 213
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After rehab, Olivia, a 32-year-old cocaine addict, is required to move back in with her mother and pregnant sister. Having left a promising career in journalism in New York, she’s now working as a sales assistant for a family friend in her home town in North Texas.
Under pressure from her court-mandated counselor – an old high school friend – to take up a hobby, Olivia decides on “urbexing.” Soon she’s breaking into derelict homes, ex-prisons, and old drive-ins across North Texas, and it’s not long before she’s looting state property and making money off the possessions, fixtures, and fittings that have been left behind.
Old Buildings in North Texas is about a modern woman’s search for personal equilibrium and wild adventure — the attempt to find stability in existence without losing sight of what makes life worth living. Jen Waldo’s style modulates effortlessly from domestic nuance to taut adventure, tackling social and moral transgressions with incisive observation and vivid humor.
Praise for Old Buildings in North Texas
“A lot of Jen Waldo’s debut novel takes place out on the porch of Olivia’s mother’s house. […] With its casual, confidential tone, Old Buildings in North Texas puts the reader in one of those porch chairs, reclining on a warm evening with a cool drink.”
— The Skinny
“Old Buildings in North Texas is an amusingly written and well worked book”
— Trip Fiction
“This novel is an absolute blast. There are serious moments of course, but Jen Waldo looks for the comedy in everything to create a memorable scenario that reminded me very much of the style of Six Feet Under.”
— Shiny New Books
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Clueless Gent’s Rating
The title – Old Buildings in North Texas – is kind of like a mask of the story that lies beneath. In fact, at first glance, you may think this is a non-fiction entry about a bunch of decrepit buildings. But you would be wrong!
More than anything, this is a story about addiction recovery. In fact, the entire story is told through the POV of the protagonist, Olivia. I, for one, found that very fascinating. The reader becomes increasingly privy to the thoughts and emotions of someone freshly recovering from an addiction.
I realize this isn’t the only book out there about addiction recovery. However, I like the way author Jen Waldo wraps the story in dark humor. It made it more personal, more real.
What About Old Buildings in North Texas?
Olivia, who must “toe the line” with recovery meetings and one-on-one counseling to stay out of jail, is strongly encouraged to find herself a hobby. In her quest to find a hobby that truly interests her, Olivia happens across urbex
– urban exploration. She finds a website that not only shows locations of old, abandoned buildings just waiting to be explored, it also provides a quasi set of ground rules for the modern urban explorer.
As Olivia starts to embrace this new hobby, she is confounded by a very pregnant sister who wants to come along for the ride, as well as a mother who tries to monitor her every move. But Olivia is determined, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Reading about Olivia’s exploits into these old buildings, all from her own POV, turned out to be highly entertaining. In fact, I actually laughed out loud several times throughout the text. I don’t know if Jen Waldo meant for it to be that funny, but it was to me.
I was able to draw a parallel between Olivia and the old buildings she explored: seemingly empty on the inside, yet still having some hidden treasures from their former lives. Maybe that’s why Olivia loved urbex as much as she did. I don’t know. Maybe you can provide some further insight after you read it.
I encountered a number of SPAG issues throughout the text. However, I suspect that I had an ARC, and I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt that the errors were corrected.
Olivia’s character arc was somewhat subtle, but some of the other characters were very different by the end of the story. I don’t take that as a bad thing. It worked well in this instance.
The pacing was pretty consistent throughout. It was a bit on the slow side, but we are in a small Texas town, and that’s how it works. No complaints from me.
The real pleasure in reading this story is in the building explorations, and everything that goes with it. I can’t go into detail without giving spoilers, so you’ll just have to read it yourself. However, if you do read it, you’ll be glad you did. I recommend it to everyone, from young adults upward.
I received a free copy of this book from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review.
Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind.
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1st Prize: Signed Copy of OBiNT + $10 Amazon Gift Card
2nd Prize: Signed Copy + $5 Amazon Gift Card
3rd Prize: eBook Copy of OBiNT
October 2-11, 2018
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3 thoughts on “Old Buildings in North Texas”
I enjoyed your review and this book — really memorable and I laughed a lot, too!
Great review! I like the analogy you drew between Olivia and the buildings. I never thought of that!
It would be interesting to know if the author meant for that parallel to exist, or if it was just a fortunate byproduct.