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Why Stuff Matters

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WHY STUFF MATTERS
by
JEN WALDO
Sub-genre: Literary Fiction / Humor
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: June 4, 2019 (US)
Number of Pages: 212
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Why Stuff Matters book cover

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.

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Notable Quotable: "Do you know what it's called when you kill someone who doesn't need killing?" WHY STUFF MATTERS by Jen Waldo
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Clueless Gent’s Rating

4.5 star rating

I can summarize my feelings about Why Stuff Matters into a single word: empathy. I’m not sure if Jen Waldo intended for a reader to completely empathize with the characters, but there it is. However, that feeling drew me into this novel very quickly. That’s one thing I really like about Jen Waldo – she gets into her stories quickly.

This story is meant to be humorous. I didn’t really take it that way. (Maybe because of the empathy?) I can understand how a reader could find humor, however, but it would have to be dark humor.

Our protagonist, Jessica, gets slapped around pretty good throughout the story. Metaphorically, of course. How could all this stuff happen to one person who is still reeling from a recent personal tragedy?

My Empathy for Why Stuff Matters

The main character inherited an antique mall from her mother. She manages the mall, but she seems to still be a little numb from the recent loss of her husband and twin girls. Watching how Jessica interacts with the stallholders at the antique mall is very entertaining.

All the stallholders have a few things in common. They’re all way past their prime and nearing the bottom of the proverbial hill they’re over. They all like to collect things under the premise of “offering them for sale.” They don’t seem to trust anyone, and they’re all pretty tight with a buck.

I won’t bore you with the specifics of why I empathize so much with the characters, except to say that my empathy made the story very personal for me. I even felt empathy when things went terribly bad, and frankly that was a bit unnerving for me. I have no idea why I felt that way.

I think this is a story that many readers can relate to, particularly if they’ve spent any amount of time around seniors.

Technically Speaking

If there were any SPAG problems in this book, they were inconsequential to me. Thus, I have no recall.

The pacing was a little on the slow side. However, given the nature of the story and the advanced age of most of the characters, a slow pace worked well for me. The build up to the climax actually begins very early in the story. Something happens, and you just know there are going to be consequences in the climax.

The climax, itself, was rather “gentle.” I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it took me by surprise. The story works with the climax, but for some reason I thought there should have been more.

Just like the climax, the character arcs were also gentle. I didn’t think the main characters profoundly changed in any way by the end of the story. I suppose those characters who did not live to see the end of the story mighty disagree with that.

It may seem that I did not like the story, but that’s not true. I enjoyed this story. I enjoy reading Jen Waldo. She is a no nonsense author that calls it like she sees it.

I received a free copy of this book from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review.
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Jen Waldo Author Photo

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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2 thoughts on “Why Stuff Matters

  1. Your last line says it all! Great review, though I am very curious to hear more about where you felt empathetic. Book club?

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