I’m going to start this by saying that this Odyssey in a Teacup was not what I expected. For some reason, after reading the blurb in my email, I expected a supernatural coming of age. It seemed interesting, but I wasn’t overly excited about it. However, it’s way better that the young adult paranormal book I somehow expected. Ruth is a self-deprecating woman struggling to find her place in an age and society where she’s expected to do the right thing (WHAT would the neighbors think?!), and she’s equally supported and held down by a colorful supporting cast of characters.
Ruth as a child is vivacious and vibrant and Houseman is excellent at bringing this across. The challenges of growing up in a Jewish immigrant family in Australia are portrayed in such a way that you no matter what your upbringing, you can sort of relate. It sort of made me feel like the prequel to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. It’s a tapestry of characters that are both inspiring and heartbreaking. What struck me most is the reality of her struggles. Struggling to find herself amidst the heartbreak of being a “mistake” and then, later, when she conforms without even realizing it, Ruth is a character who draws you in and keeps you engaged through to the end.
Her friends and she are the true embodiment of a lifelong friendship. They’re close until they’re not, and then they are again. This was advertised to me as a coming of age book, but I feel like it’s more of a coming-of-self book. A lot of the book takes place when she’s older, but it still has that “growing up” feel. Her friends and cousin just add to that, as we are able to follow their escapades alongside Ruth’s.
As villains, her family embodies the active and inactive ones. Her mother is a constantly irritating presence, never really having anything nice to say and always calling her pest. Her father is inactively the same, as he never comes to her defense. It makes for a heartbreaking start to a life. However, she rallies again and again, coming back to herself. And her friends help her along the way. There is one moment with her mom that brought me to tears…because it was so supportive and out of character.
The twist…It’s something I feel I should have seen coming. But I didn’t. And I found myself at turns being the neighbors (OMG. SHE WOULDN’T) and her personal cheering squad (IT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE!). I’m excited for the next book (look for a review here later this year).
I really recommend this book. I kept checking to see if I had missed the fact that it was a memoir, as the characters and situations are so believable. Highly recommend if you like reading about characters that make you feel, if not better about your own life, like you aren’t alone.
Odyssey in a Teacup
Encounters with a pair of supersized Y-fronts; a humourless schoolmarm with an unfortunate name and monstrous yellow incisors; and a tut-tutting, big-breasted, modern-day gorgon are the norm for Ruth Roth. She’s used to crazy.
Her mum squawks like a harpy and her dad has a dodgy moral compass. Add in daily face-offs with a relentlessly bitchy mirror, and Ruth’s home life feels like a Greek tragicomedy.
She hankers for the ordinary. But blah is not a good fit for someone who doesn’t fit in. And isn’t meant to.
Ruth’s vanilla existence is an issue for her besties—her hot-looking, obsessive-compulsive cousin and soul mate (who needs to do everything twice-twice), and her two closest girlfriends.
With their encouragement and a good homoeopathic dose of ancient mythology, Ruth embarks on an odyssey to retrieve her spirit. She’s confronted with her biggest challenge ever, though, when one of these friends sends her spiralling back into a dark place.
The decision she must make can either bring her out or launch the mother of all wars in her world.
Paula Houseman was once a graphic designer. But when the temptation to include ‘the finger’ as part of a logo for a forward-moving women’s company proved too much, she knew it was time to give away design. Instead, she took up writing.
She found she was a natural with the double entendres (God knows she’d been in enough trouble as a child for dirty wordplay).
As a published writer of earthy chick lit and romantic comedy, Paula gets to bend, twist, stretch and juice up universal experiences to shape reality the way she wants it, even if it is only in books. But at the same time, she can make it more real, so that her readers feel part of the sisterhood. Or brotherhood (realness has nothing to do with gender).
Through her books, Paula also wants to help the reader escape into life and love’s comic relief. And who doesn’t need to sometimes?etch and juice up universal experiences to shape reality the way she wants it, even if it is only in books. But at the same time, she can make it more real, so that her readers feel part of the sisterhood. Or brotherhood (realness has nothing to do with gender).
Her style is a tad Monty Pythonesque because she adores satire. It helps defuse all those gaffes and thoughts that no one is too proud of.
Paula lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband. No other creatures. The kids have flown the nest and the dogs are long gone.