Cleaning Nabokov's House

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A moving novel about a woman who must pull her life together and find a way to love again after the marriage she gave up everything for fails.

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Cleaning Nabokov's House: A Novel

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Overview

A moving novel about a woman who must pull her life together and find a way to love again after the marriage she gave up everything for fails.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An odd mix of silly, ridiculous, and inspiring, Daniels's charming if scattered debut follows the unlikely course of Barb Barrett, numb and adrift after losing custody of her children. In her rented upstate New York house where Vladimir Nabokov once lived, Barb finds a sheaf of index cards, a possible unfinished Nabokov manuscript about Babe Ruth. Her efforts to get the book evaluated and published are the first steps out of her endearingly depressive hibernation, introducing her to literary agent Margie and handsome carpenter Greg. When the manuscript is judged not to be Nabokov's, the story takes a questionable, wacky turn, as Barb opens a cathouse staffed by athletes from the local college to service the unfulfilled women of her small town. This endeavor, of course, provides the funds for her to mount a new fight for her children, the self-esteem to begin a relationship, and the confidence to find a fulfilling career. Despite the curiosities of the grief-to-gumption plot, Daniels's writing is slick and her characters richly detailed, and even when it dips into sheer goofiness, it's still a pleasure to read. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Barb Barrett left her husband because they couldn't agree on how to load the dishwasher. In the divorce, he got the kids, the house, and the car, and she got her freedom. But she finds that freedom without her children is not all it's cracked up to be. To begin the process of getting them back, she buys a house once occupied by Vladimir Nabokov. While cleaning the house she finds a baseball/love story written on index cards. Could Nabokov have been the author? Could she turn this find into financial stability? While waiting for the experts to decide, she opens a day spa-cum-brothel under the guise of a research project and falls in love with a local carpenter and her ex-husband's dog. VERDICT Daniels writes her story with refreshingly eccentric twists, holding readers' interest despite the time-worn scenario. Her characters live and breathe, and the humor, energy, wit, and edgy look at small-town mores make this a delightful read. It will appeal to fiction readers, especially women.—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence
Kirkus Reviews

Daniels' debut concerns Barb Barrett, a woman who's hit rock bottom.

Barb's marriage is over, and she's lost custody of her two young children. To make things grimmer yet, her husband ("the experson") has taken up romantically with the social worker assigned to their case. Reduced to making ends meet by answering letters sent to a local dairy ("We do not have 'free range' cows, as you suggest, because of the danger it would pose to motorists as well as to the cows themselves..."),Barb moves into a drafty, dreary house once occupied by Vladimir and Vera Nabokov, and soon—trying to find space for her daughter's extensive handbag collection—she finds, secreted in a chest of drawers, a novel manuscript that she decides must be (despite its being, it seems, a baseball book/love storyabout Babe Ruth) a lost Nabokov novel. This discovery leads to Barb's plan to remake herself: first as an author of "mature romances," second as the proprietor of a high-end cathouse that caters—under thethin guise of a) a day spa and b) an experiment in human ecology—to the neglected middle-aged women of her town (areimagined versionof Ithaca, N.Y.).In time shealso embarks on a love affair of her own with a virile, buff-chested carpenter named Greg Holder. If this sounds like standard romance, it is and it isn't. The Nabokovian stuff is a feint toward literariness that goes nowhere, andthe novel's conceit isby the numbers,the plot a bit creaky and a lot contrived. But Danielslargelysucceedsanyway, thanks to Barb's sardonic, perceptive voice.

Barb is finecompany—blunt, mordantly funny,with a winning combination of ruthlessness and warmth.

From the Publisher
“Daniels is warmly funny and audacious in this shrewd and saucy mix of family drama, gender discord, sexual healing, and high literature; a raucous yet sensitive tale of one quirky woman’s struggle to overcome the lowest of low self-esteem to get motherhood and love right.” Booklist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439195024
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Leslie Daniels has published short fiction and essays in Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, New Ohio Review, among others and has been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize, for Best American Essays, and for the Best of the Associated Writing Programs. She is the former fiction editor of Green Mountains Review, and has worked in publishing for two decades. Her website is LeslieDaniels.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(6)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 31, 2012

    Enjoyed the writing. Recommend also Roland Merullo, A Little Love Story

    I'd listened to a Southern series novel prior to this that held my interest okay, but after I listened to "Cleaning Nabokov's House" [Bernadette Dunne, good narrator], I was not yet ready to return to the Southern series (even though non-historic and no affected drawl). I wanted more of Ms. Daniels' style. I reread several scenes for the pleasure of good writing and to attend to her talent and skill. Another book with well-written scenes, of an entirely different genre, is "The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel" by Jasper Fforde, narrator: Elizabeth Sastre. And, for simply a sweet love story (after clearing the illness intro), try "A little love story : a novel", by Roland Merullo. [Yea!, I just discovered Mr. Merullo has many novels. I wish Ms. Daniels would give us another.]

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  • Posted June 11, 2011

    Excellent

    The+author+is+able+to+say+exactly+what+is+in+your+mind+regarding+relationships+with+parents%2C+children%2C+strangers+and+friends.+She+is+able+to+capture+the+self-doubt+and+hope+of+an+ordinary+person+facing+the+enormous+challenges+of+change%2C+divorce%2C+child+custody%2C+dating+and+entrepeneurship.+She+is+funny+too.+I+hated+to+have+it+end+and+cannot+wait+to+read+her+next+book.

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  • Posted April 18, 2011

    enjoyed it but not a page turner

    enjoyed her wry and pithy observations, especially about men, and the differences about urban and small town life. the story got onto the wrong track about half way through, when she goes into a totally unbelievable business. that took away her credibility. the last few chapters were very short. still enjoyed it.

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  • Posted March 16, 2011

    Loved it

    This book was a fun easy read. Humor when you did not expect it, tenderness when you expected it and a happy ending I was hoping for. Looking forward to another great book from this author.

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  • Posted March 15, 2011

    highly recommend...check it out!

    This is an interesting story of a woman and her life after a divorce and separation from her 2 children...a journey of sorts as she navigates through the injustice, finds inspiration and learns to make her way back. The undercurrent of pain and tenderness as well as the life lessons keep you hooked to the very end.

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