Book Reviews

What Do You Have in Store? Why Stuff Matters by Jen Waldo @ArcadiaBooks

Happy Monday everyone! I’m delighted to share a special review today! I had a lot of fun reading Why Stuff Matters and I’d like to thank Arcadia Books for providing me a copy of this book. This review is my unbiased thank you to them!

why stuff mattersTitle: Why Stuff Matters
Author: Jen Waldo
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of publication: October 29th 2017
Format: eARC
Number of pages: 216
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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. Jen Waldo’s style modulates effortlessly from domestic nuance to taut adventure, to social and moral transgression, consistently vivid and inflected with humour.


Why Stuff Matters? I often wonder. I cling to my books; my mother can’t let go of so many memorabilia our closets are full. Objects that have a history, good or not, they make a place a home, or a room a personal space.

Are we defined by what surrounds us?

Sometimes I tell myself I’m doing something for one reason, but it turns out I’m doing it for another.

Jessica bequeathed an antique mall filled with old people and their even older objects. Antique is the right word to describe everything that’s between those walls! The place is full of whatever you can think of, from china to guns. I was immediately curious by this weird and out-of-time place and its inhabitants.

Some people deserve to die, but they don’t. And some deserve to live, and they die instead.

The catching writing had me very intrigued about every character in the story. I remember thinking old people were all the same, and that there was nothing fun about them. Well, come and meet the guys in this town! Pard, Dee, Rosie, they all have something to teach us, and to teach Jessica. As I turned the pages, I got glimpses of previous lives, motives for present behavior, and many situations that shamelessly made me chuckle. Gosh, I wish I am half as strong-willed and crazy when I reach 70! This book can be read in the queue at the supermarket, in the train, wherever you need something to make you think while having a great time. I did not even realize I had been doing so much pondering until I neared the end!

Details are left quite sketchy, just like Jessica’s thoughts and actions. Similar to a closed shell, she tries her best to fill her mother’s shoes, with her own temper, and her very unusual way of doing things. It was impossible not to fall for her, despite knowing so little about her life and what led her to work there after her mother passed away. Why would a teacher leave it all behind to play teacher to a bunch of hard-boiled and capricious bunch? A new start, old scars, I felt for Jessica, I cared for her, and I wish I could help her take another step in the right direction, although she definitely doesn’t need anyone’s help to get moving!

Did acting normal make me feel normal? No, it just made me feel sad.

Behind each name, each vendor, each object, is a story. The author beautifully illustrated many aspects of life, of growing up, of growing old, by using her book as a translator. At times, Jessica felt older than the tenants she cared for. Cleaning the mess of your fabulously insane +50 class is hard work, so is facing your own life, especially when it comes back to haunt you in the form of a 12 years old. Jessica is busy, and so are we, dealing with bikes and bodies, cops and building rules!

How do you share something that’s too agonizing to articulate?

More than a weird and well-written story, Why Stuff Matters makes you wonder about your choices, your weaknesses, your strength, the importance you give to things, and what you need to surround yourself with to keep going. This book belongs to a different genre than what I’m used to but I have no regrets about choosing it. More than just a talk about objects, I fell in love with the owners. Refreshing, funny, and dark at times, Jen Waldo’s work embarks you on a strange swim through every stage of life!

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JEN WALDO has lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period, and now lives in Marble Falls, Texas with her husband, David and small dog Trip. She first started writing in Cairo, where she struggled to find interesting things to read and decided to write something for herself.
Finding pleasure and power in the process of creating, she has since earned a Masters of Fine Art, has been published in The European, and has been shortlisted in a competition by Traveler.
She is often asked why, with her knowledge of international cultures and settings, she places her novels in a stark dry town in North Texas. It’s
because it’s the place she knows best – the dusty gusts, the flat earth, the square houses, the late-summer thunderstorms. The people are stocky,
stubborn, religious, big-hearted, abhorrent toward change, and suspicious of success. She’s grateful to Amarillo for providing colourful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind.

12 thoughts on “What Do You Have in Store? Why Stuff Matters by Jen Waldo @ArcadiaBooks”

  1. I plead guilty.. I can’t give anything up.. even old clothes or shoes are a drama if I have to bin them ;-). I guess this would be interesting, I’d probably feel a kinship with these ‘old people’ haha but I’m not sure it would help dealing with my problem. Great review!


  2. Great review Meggy. 🙂 This book is a different genre to what I’m used to as well but I’m really intrigued by the blurb. This sounds like an interesting story filled with great characters, and I’m glad you enjoyed it as well.
    Also I cling to my books too. I have so many physical editions that are special to me that I’m very protective over them. Life of a bookworm right? 😀


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