Daum brings a crisp, wisecracking voice to her novel about Lucinda, a life-style correspondent for a morning television show, who, in search of a more interesting life, leaves New York for Prairie City, a fictional Midwestern town. The "Report" of the title is a series of dispatches on life there which Lucinda pitches to her boss as 'A Year in Provence' meets 'Lake Wobegon Days.' (The boss observes that it's more like "Girl, Interrupted" meets "Deliverance.") Although the New Yorkers here are as predictable as the TV show' reports on bridal-registry etiquette, the people Lucinda meets in Prairie City become real characters, particularly the novel's love interest, a painter whose day job is in a grain elevator. Their relationship gives Lucinda more insight than she might have liked into the lives of some of the women in her adopted town, and leads the novel beyond clichés of city slickers and country bumpkins toward an admirably nuanced view of the American heartland.
… smart, stylish and sometimes downright hilarious. — Mark Rozzo
Daum has written a first-rate novelThe Boston Globe
In The Quality of Life Report, Daum does her best work with little things -- minor scenes feel the most relevant, empty rooms the most populated. Like her heroine, the less interesting Daum is required to be, the more freedom she has to invent her own palatably melancholy universe out of rough edges and false starts. — Heather Havrilesky
Daum's winning first novel (after the 2000 essay collection My Misspent Youth) depicts the transformation of Lucinda Trout from a semisuccessful, 29-year-old New York City television morning-show reporter into a full-blown Midwesterner. She flees the big city (and her tiny apartment and domineering, illiterate boss) for wind-swept Prairie City, a smallish town full of affordable real estate somewhere in the flyover zone, promising to send back a series of TV segments dubbed "Quality of Life Reports," intended to demonstrate that wholesome, smalltown life still exists. But once she settles in, she finds all is not necessarily as expected in the heartland: the locals, though well-meaning, don't live up to the clich (nearly everyone has multiple children by multiple partners; a local lesbian singing duo calls itself Estrogen Therapy) and Lucinda manages to produce only a handful of dreadful dispatches. Instead of advancing her career, she surprises her cynical self by shacking up in a remote farmhouse with an irresponsible, faux-Sam Shepard type while helping to care for his three kids, and trying to make it through a long, cold winter with an inadequate car and little money. Though it sounds grim, Daum never lets it get maudlin, and Lucinda's determination to make everything work-the farm, the man, the kids, her career-makes for some brilliant flashes of comedy. By the end, Lucinda may not have found love, or necessarily a better life, but she does learn to relax a bit and take things as they come. Though the love story occupies center stage, this is not mere chick lit, and men will enjoy it, too. It is a confident first novel, full of wit and deft social criticism, often very funny and frequently wise. Daum is a rising star. (May 12) Forecast: The same publishing team that made Melissa Bank into a bestseller could do the same for Daum, who is a frequent NPR commentator and has already appeared on Oprah. A 12-city book tour and tie-in Web site should add to the growing attention. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Lucinda Trout, associate producer of a local lifestyle television show, New York Up Early, visits Prairie City, a small Midwestern town, to film a program on methamphetamine use in America's heartland. She then gets her ditsy boss to agree to let her move there for a year and do a series on "real" life, as opposed to the reputed artificiality of life in Manhattan. In short order, she falls in love with Mason, a back-to-nature outdoorsman/painter, buys a house with him, and joins the board of the Prairie City Coalition for Women and a book club. Meanwhile, Mason becomes addicted to methamphetamine but intends to give it up, so Lucinda decides to stay with him forever in Prairie City. This misguided first novel by the author of the well-regarded My Misspent Youth: Essays lacks anything to recommend it: the one-dimensional characters border on stereotypes, situations are introduced in one chapter and then dropped, and the promising plot fails to deliver. The love story is nonsensical, since we have no clue what draws Mason to Lucinda or vice versa. Daum alternates between what seems to want to be social commentary (but what's her point?) and satire (but there's no humor, unless you consider a horse ejaculating on a group of party goers funny). An optional purchase for collections where her other book is in demand. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A half-successful debut novel from essayist Daum (My Misspent Youth, 2001) follows a lifestyle-obsessed Manhattan TV producer as she relocates to a bland midwestern prairie town. When her apartment rent abruptly triples, Lucinda Trout, 29, figures it's time to make a consciousness-raising move to Prairie City ("Open Arms, Open Minds"), a place she visited briefly for a segment on methamphetamine-addicted housewives for her vapid, early-morning TV show, New York Up Early. Lucinda is fed up with her usual journalistic work, aimed at neurotic New Yorkers-segments about thong underwear and adopted Chinese babies on the Upper West Side-and demoralized also both by the inanities of her bitchy boss, Fay Figaro, and by the competition for the hopelessly few available men in the city. So she proposes a "Quality of Life Report" that will cover an entire year in Prairie City, a segment that would allow New Yorkers to indulge in fantasies of the good life with cheap, spacious apartments, abundant "bad boys" to date, and big parties (in barns) costing under $300. But only in theory does the move satisfy Lucinda's yearning to go in a "serious, more humanitarian direction." She taps into the local feminist circuit of recovering, empowering, chain-smoking, aging harridans; finds herself the romantic interest of numerous, albeit unsavory, men; and even moves into a genuine farmhouse with her hickish Sam Shepard fantasy, Mason. Trouble is that taciturn woodsman Mason, who shares custody of his three children by three different lovers, ends up addicted to meth while Lucinda's project about the heartland idyll gradually comes to be seen as a cynical exploitation of the well-meaning natives. And when outragedboss Faye arrives to redirect Lucinda's shoots in order to eliminate any fat, badly dressed people from appearing on camera, the reader winces at the collapse of Daum's skittish irony A chatty, self-absorbed, you-know-what-I-mean style isn't enough to keep Lucinda from being continually outclassed by the forgiving Prairie City locals. Film rights to Radar Films; author tour. Agent: Tina Bennett/Janklow & Nesbit