Monday, September 18, 2023

Review: Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge by Helen Ellis

Helen Ellis is pretty reliable for the reader looking for light and oftentimes relatable humor. She is the person who you'd like to have as a friend because her filter is a little askew but not malicious. I've read a collection of her quite entertaining, definitely offbeat short stories (American Housewife) and several of her generally enjoyable essay collections (Southern Lady Code is my pick for the best) so I was looking forward to Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge: Intimate Confessions from a Happy Marriage.

These short essays, many of which are a result of settling into her NYC apartment with Lex, her husband of twenty years, during the pandemic, are mildly humorous but not quite as laugh out loud funny as I'd hoped, maybe because I'm the long time inhabitant of a similar marriage. Ellis is quite candid about her life with her husband and pokes fun at him and, more often, at herself throughout the collection. Her gentle hyperbole makes for heartwarming and appealing storytelling. She's quirky, finding humor in the mundane, and looking at things just a bit slant, writing about her husband's (and her friends' husbands) snoring and all the failed solutions for it, learning to tend plants and turning their apartment into a jungle during the pandemic, her particular and exacting instructions for their cat sitter, using stickers--which she adores--to commemorate her sex life with her husband, her views on death, and more.

There is much to enjoy here and it is a quick read but ultimately it didn't make me laugh out loud and I forgot a lot of it as soon as I closed the book. To be fair, this might be because I come from a family filled with our own brand of crazy (for instance, my youngest once told me that when he was home alone every sound was a serial killer, and his ever empathetic sister questioned why it had to be a serial killer since they only had to kill him, we claim gifts and other items of interest belonging to others by asking if we can have whatever it is on that person's "last day," and like Ellis, my parents have debated who can be trusted to be their "plug-puller" at the end of life--spoiler, it's not my sister or me but our husbands, which probably tells you more than you need to know about us, and my father has requested that his ashes be spread over the ever malfunctioning septic field because he's spent so much time up to his knees in it in life that he might as well spend eternity there too) so Ellis and her friends and family's brand of crazy is less entertaining kookiness and more just everyday, normal daily life to me. Most people think she and this book are outrageously funny. Me? I think she's moderately amusing in this collection and wonder (not really) if we're distant branches on the same, not right family tree. That said, most readers will get a lot of chuckles out of this light and easy read.

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