Sunday, April 8, 2012

My take on: Leftovers

No I don't have a repressed desire to be a Tupperware lady, but after finishing Leftovers by Arthur Wooten I felt I needed a little context. Leftovers is the tale of  1950s downtrodden housewife. When all else failed, Vivian Lawson turned to Tupperware to pick herself up.

Within the first few pages, I thought Vivian was too good to be true. She wore perfect clothes, cooked perfect food, and had a perfect husband. But it was all a mirage, a fantasy that Vivian has in her head. In reality, Vivian is a scrawny, insecure housewife who is trying to be perfect. Her many attempts to make the perfect meal for her husband often results in burnt, inedible food. Her many attempts to beautify herself with makeup result in Vivian looking more like a raccoon than Coco Chanel. All of her efforts go unnoticed by her dog of a husband Paul. I say "dog" because his character is sooooooooo insensitive. He's only concerned with his needs. Any problems in their marriage is Vivian's fault not his. He cheats on Vivian because she is a bad wife. Yeah, that makes sense. Not!!

When the marriage falls apart Vivian seems to find her voice, albeit briefly. Rather than let Paul just walk out the house, Vivian throws whatever she can get her hands on at Paul. I was thinking, "Hit him!! Hit him!! Hit him!!" It was a brief moment of triumph because rather than picking herself up Vivian wallows in self pity. She ignores all the household bills. She ignores her friends Babs and Stew. She has no idea how to provide for herself. Her mother Irene never approved of Vivian's marriage, but still refuses to help her daughter financially. Irene's character struck me as rigid and cold. She cares more about appearances than feelings. Vivian seems to always be seeking her approval despite being rebuffed by her mother. If Vivian can show how happy her life is, mother will approve. If Vivian can show what a good wife she is, mother will approve. If Vivian can show how good her marriage is, mother will approve. But no matter what Vivian does it's never enough for Irene.

When Vivian finally hits rock bottom, Babs and her brother Stew take her in. Babs is a funny and outgoing character, but Stew is a bit of a mystery. His career as a cop isn't going well, instead he tags along with Babs to her Tupperware parties. He is a great cook, and when he isn't daydreaming about Vivian, Stew is singing Judy Garland. I found myself thinking like Vivian, "Is he gay?" I hate to stereotype, but this is supposed to be 1954. I can't imagine there were many straight men like him. Does he really have a crush on Vivian or is he putting on an act?

Meanwhile, Vivian is left to wonder how she can make her life better.  Is there anyway out of this? What will she do for money? Babs has the solution.....Tupperware!! Babs enjoys financial freedom by selling Tupperware. In 2012, that doesn't sound like a lot of fun despite the many Tupperware salesmen and women out there. But in the 1950s, I'm sure it was very attractive. Vivian isn't a natural saleswoman, but once she steps out her shell her career takes off. But it seems like there is something missing for Vivian. The money gives her all the material things she's ever wanted, but can it buy her mother's love and approval?

I like the overall message of the book, life does get better. If you don't change your situation it will never get better. During her marriage to Paul, Vivian was always trying to be happy or put on the appearance that she was happy. It took losing everything for Vivian to take a hard look at her life. No matter what age you are, the themes in this book are something everyone can relate to.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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