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Self Storage

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  331 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Flan Parker has always had an inquisitive mind, searching for what's hidden below the surface and behind the door. Her curious nature and enthusiastic probing have translated into a thriving resale business in the university housing complex where she lives with her husband and two young children. Flan's venture helps pay the bills while her husband works on his dissertatio ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 23rd 2007 by Ballantine Books (first published 2007)
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Self Storage was one of the best books I have read in a long time. The story had so much meaning on so many different levels that it’s hard to pinpoint what I enjoyed the most about it. Flan Parker, the narrator of the book who buys boxes of people’s stuff from abandoned self storage units, searches for her own answer of “yes” after winning a box that contains only an address and a note with the word “yes” on it. Flan, a mother of two young children (and who loves them fiercely) embarks on a jou ...more
This novel is definitely unique. However, the intrigue of the self-storage auctions was the only thing that keep me reading. It was a little too bizarre for my taste but I did finish it. And any book that I am willing to finish deserves at least 2 stars.
After reading its cover, I felt excitement about reading this book. After all, the author wrote it during NNWM, which is quite an accomplishment. And the story line featured storage auctions, which are incredibly fun.

The book was indeed well written and fast paced, but it didn't grab my attention as much as I hoped it would. It also contained many references to Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass", a piece of literature I don't appreciate as much as his fans will.

While the book was just okay for me
This book was all over the place, and some of those places were much better than others. I loved the sale scenes - they really rang true - and the connections with Walt Whitman, but the 9/11 subplot was just silly.
Jen Selinsky
"Self Storage" takes place in the summer of 2002, when Americans are still shaken by the tragic events of 9/11. Flan lives with her husband and two children in the student housing complex while her husband works on his Doctorate. Flan supports her family by purchasing unclaimed storage items at auctions and selling them on eBay. Flan’s life takes an unexpected turn when she comes across the stored items of an Afghani couple, who live on her street. She also purchases a single box, which has a pa ...more
Nov 09, 2007 Amy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Probably not
Shelves: shelve-it
The book tried really hard & I give her credit for trying, but it fell flat in the end.
Writer's Relief
SELF STORAGE is a quirky, complex, and unusual story that is well worth a read...and was published years before any storage auction reality shows aired on television. The story takes place in 2002 after the terrible events of 9/11. Flan Parker subsidizes her family's income by finding treasures at abandoned storage locker sales to resell in her community of Riverside, California. Flan is thrilled to find that she has a knack for choosing lucrative lockers. Attending these storage auctions also h ...more
Jamie Gender
Hated it.
sandy sent this to me via a care package a couple of weeks ago. i picked it up this week off a pile of books on my desk when i was quickly transitioning into the "recovery room" with valentine for the night. valentine was agitated, calliope was agitated, and both lena and were exhausted. i wasn't really thinking about what book to grab, but was very thankful when i opened the pages to find this novel...
i spend about 12 hrs a day with our little guy in a small, empty bedroom, both of us curled up
Elizabeth Earley
When I finished my reading of Self Storage by Gayle Brandeis, it was with an exhaled “ah,” a quickened pulse, and the word, Yes, whispering in my mind. The story poses the question to its protagonist, Flan Parker, as well as to its reader, “what makes you say ‘Yes’ inside?” Answers seep through odd, bright paintings, intimate haircuts, and the words of Walt Whitman. The adventure of finding what makes you say ‘Yes’ to your life is the theme which threads together many different simultaneous and ...more
It's always fun when you pick up a book that happens to be centered in your local area. This one revolves around life in student housing at Univ. of Riverside. It's about this young mother who makes money by reselling things she buys at abandoned self storage units. She gets the winning bid on a box one day that has only a painting done on the inside of the box with an address card and a note that says "yes". She sets out to find the person who left this mysterious message. This in turn causes h ...more
Jul 27, 2007 Andi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone

Gayle Brandeis’ Brilliant Study on Self

I just finished reading Brandeis’ newest novel Self-Storage, and I’m on fire like I haven’t been for words in a while. Maybe it’s that I read the book in two days because it was that interesting; or maybe it’s that Brandeis keeps the novel well-paced, always interesting, and complex - whatever it is, I loved this book.
She successfully weaves together a first-person narrator’s story of her life as a mother, odd entrepreneur, and personal activist (read the b
I connected with Flan from the very beginning...the insulated life in married housing, surrounded by so many international students and their families, all living in near-poverty in search of a dream. Then Brandeis twists the story to make us really look at our ugly suspicions of people who are different, who dare to hang onto their own beliefs and customs while living here. I was proud of the stand she took with her neighbor, Sodaba, while at the same time, ashamed of her apparent abandonment o ...more
The Book Maven
In the hot, smoggy, dusty land of the Inland Empire, in the bustling, semi-countrified city of Riverside, Flan Parker is living her life, trying to keep her family afloat as her husband Shake works on his PhD, Housing Authority tries to shut down her business, and her slippery toddler daughter gets run over by the persecuted next-door Afghani neighbor, a quiet woman who is being harassed by disgruntled people and unfriendly FBI agents.

With Walt Whitman as her guide, as well as her long-suffering
Flan has a husband who is writing his dissertation in their living room and is meanwhile miles away from her. They live in university housing which gives them a kind of instant neighborhood except for the Afghan neighbors who keep to themselves (until the traumatic day when their lives intertwine). Flan goes to auctions at self storage units and buys the contents to sell at her yard sales, subconsciously she also looking to find herself and a peaceful resolution to her past as she opens each box ...more
"I probably wouldn't admit this to anyone, but I didn't have a lot of Yes in my life. I had a lot of Yeah. A lot of good stuff..But not a lot that made me light up. A low flame, maybe. A dull glow. The word "yeah" sounded like a yawn, a sigh. Not a sizzle. "Yes" was garlic thrown in hot oil. "Yes" was waves sizzling ontho the shore, Pop Rocks cracking in the mouth. Maybe a "Yes" was waiting for me somwhere."
I loved this passage - perhaps because it is way too familiar a sentiment. The narrator (
Barbara Ardinger
This is a spectacular novel, beautifully written and filled with details we never seem to notice in our "real lives"--plus quotes from the poetry of Walt Whitman. The narrator is a woman you want to slap upside the head and hug at the same time, her husband is one of those eternal Ph.D. candidates (ABD)who finally does something sensible. Her children are all too human, and so are all the other characters from the woman in the burka to the Filipina entomologist to the artist who lives in the blu ...more
Describes the phenomenom of buying abandoned storage units and reselling the goods inside before it became a tv thing.
It's a not entirely post-9/11 novel. A young woman, who lives like trailer trash with her grad student husband & two young kids but also loves Walt Whitman's poetry, much of which she has committed to memory, supports her family by purchasing at auction stuff that's been abandoned in storage units & then reselling it at yard sales & on e-Bay. Nothing much happens until nearly midway through the book when a tragic accident throws her together with her mysterious burqa-wearing Afghani ...more
I chose this book because it was written by a Riverside author. It was fun to have her talk about Mt. Rubidoux and the fire on the mountain on the 4th of July, the married student housing at UCR, the First United Methodist Church preschool, and other familiar things. The story line was interesting. She bids on self-storage units to get things to sell at yard sales to earn money while her husband is in school. There are other things that happen, her daughter gets hit by a car, she helps a neighbo ...more
Bev Siddons
Self Storage was recommended by my friend, Loretta, partly because the story takes place in Riverside. When I found it was connected to Whitman's Song of Myself, I had to read it. His poem keeps coming up in my various readings. I liked the story, although I didn't like the ending at all. It certainly isn't a "must read". I would like to know about Julia, who lived in a blue cabin in Mt Baldy and especially more about the mysterious neighbor, Shadoba. The book has some endearing moments but not ...more
I enjoyed this story of a young mother who is supporting her family by buying at auction, and then reselling, the items other people have abandoned in self storage units. I wasn't sure how much I would like the main character, or her husband, if I met them, but their two children I found delightful. I could also relate to the hold that possessions have on one, and the difficulties in letting go; the young mother, and others in this story, like me, just have too much STUFF. This was a quick read, ...more
Patricia Geller
Light, easy read.
Story of a woman, who has a thing for Walt Whitman, and bids on self storage units that have been abandoned. Her husband is supposed to be working on his dissertation, but seems to spend more time watching soap operas than writing. Then her toddler gets hit by a car driven by her mysterious burqua wearing Afghani neighbor. Through in some other fun neighbors who have creative pot luck dinner parties, and a strange blue haired lady on her way to a Zen retreat, and I just found the book fun and in ...more
I love unlovable characters, but dang, Shae and Flan take it a level I can't hack. That plus two other things -- the utter implausibility of the plot and the Duplo-built character development -- left me with a three-star limit. However, Brandeis makes the grad-student housing of Riverside viscerally delightful to me and I stayed up late to finish it, so I'd give it the Guilty Pleasure Plot award. With Barbara Kingsolver recommending it I thought it'd be a sure thing, but not for me.
Jessica Hollinger
This book just got dumber as it went on.
Excellent read.
I wanted to like this book very much and in fact it had many parts that were very appealing to me, from the character's overwhelming love for her children to the understanding that doing the right thing should be paramount to the importance of family in all its forms, however it's found. But the 9/11 presence really bugged me. It just felt a bit contrived and not followed through very well, like the author wanted to toss something "meaningful" in. It also led to a pretty abrupt ending.
Tiffany Risner
Dec 20, 2007 Tiffany Risner rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
I love books that represent place, and even more especially when it's a place in which I'm familiar. Based in Riverside, it's about a family that is so sensuously portrayed that you'd swear they are living and breathing. Gayle is a master at capturing the senses, as seen in her previous novel, Fruitflesh (wow!!!). I grew up in Riverside and now live in NY; I found that the landmarks and attitudes of the area made me nostalgic.
It took about 40 pages for me to really get into this book, but once Flan bought the contents of the storage unit with only a box in it at auction, I was hooked. She wove quite a few elements into one short book and very realistically. I lived about 60 miles from Riverside for many years and was there many times. I also managed a self storage facility and held auctions, so it was like seeing that part from the opposite side.
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Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperSanFrancisco), Dictionary Poems (Pudding House), The Book of Dead Birds, which won Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change, and her latest novel, Self Storage. Other awards include the QPB/Story Magazine Short Fiction Award and a Peace Poetry prize from ...more
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