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There Must Be Some Mistake

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  356 ratings  ·  94 reviews
A fiftyish graphic designer forced into retirement discovers, via a parade of unlikely events, that it may still be a lovely day in the neighborhood.

Wallace Webster lives alone in Kemah, Texas at Forgetful Bay, a condo development where residents are passing away at an alarming rate. As he monitors events in the neighborhood, Wallace keeps in touch with his ex-wife, his gr
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2014)
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Average rating 3.23  · 
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Nov 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: american
Junk Culture

There are two dominant architectural genres in America: the tacky ad hoc industrial/commercial sprawl available on every federal highway in every town from Brownsville to Appalachicola; and the private designer communities tucked in between - like Destin, Florida and Kemah, Texas - which are equally tacky but considerably more expensive, given that they are planned to be an escape from the first. Both genres are vacuous and depressing, physical representations of a lack of any real
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This has been such an interesting reading experience. Wallace Webster began as a man I really didn't know whether I cared about. Did I want to continue to read about his life in retirement, the sometimes strange variety of people who lived in his condo complex in Kemah Texas, the various females in his life--ex-wife, daughter, deceased wife, neighbor-femme-fatale, and others? But then something happened...Wallace grew on me and Barthelme's style won me over completely. He is a sneaky writer. He ...more
Lisa Zeidner
Oct 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love this novel.

People often discuss Frederick Barthelme’s work in terms of the setting—the tawdry shopping malls, amusement parks and theme restaurants of the South and Southwest. It’s true that he is the maestro of the tacky milieu. But it’s a mistake to take this only as realistic fiction about not-quite-urban, middle class people going about their (empty, meaningless, yes we get it) lives. Here he is more overt about his project: the question of how we make art out of culture’s flotsam and
Aug 30, 2014 rated it liked it
I have to confess I like to know what I’m reading. Perhaps it’s the control freak in me needing to know where I’m going. Is it a mystery / thriller? Should I be prepared for some twists and turns? Or is it ‘literature’ so I can expect to be entertained with sensible sentences and a thought-provoking plot.

Which is a long-winded way of saying this predisposition is why I struggled with much of this novel.

That's not to say I didn't eventually enjoy the book, rather that... it really went nowhere i
William Koon
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
By Frederick Barthelme

Howling. I am silently howling at this book. I keep wanting to toss around words like “existential” and “Kafkaesque” and scream “Where’s Iggy?” from Confederacy of Dunces. Barthelme puts you right in the middle of a situation and stews and turns and dips and skews. And along the way he scares the shit out of you from his character’s condo in Forgetful Bay near Galveston.

He reminded me of why we need the Justin Miller rule in much of life. His main
Angela M
Sep 16, 2014 rated it liked it

I really liked this book but am giving it 3 stars even though I probably should give it 4. I'm just not sure how to rate it, so maybe it's 3.5.

Right from the start it feels like a what am going to do with the rest of my life kind of story, but the book seems to be more about the people around him, the quirky people and odd and ominous occurrences in the condo development where he lives, than about Wallace Webster himself. Wallace, in his fifties has lost his job and even that happened before the
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Wallace Webster is just another average, down-to-earth guy based in Kemah, Texas. He lives in a suburb that includes Forgetful Bay Condominiums, which can metaphorically be labeled as 'America' in the eyes of many. A democracy that is not really a democracy is made up of a Homeowner's society; an interesting array of people trying to make themselves known as the President, but always failing to meet the people's needs.

Throughout the book, we see Wallace interacting with his ex-wife, teenage daug
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Barthelme is without question one of the most gifted writers in America. The language game, as the kids say, is "on point." It's hard to imagine that anyone could shoehorn in or pickaxe out a single word without the entire structure tumbling into a ravine.

And of all of his later novels, this one is the most inventive and surprising. It's him, obviously, throughout, a language banquet, a fierce focus on the mundane and beautiful.

But the ending is extraordinary, revved up, impossible to forecast,
Larry H
Oct 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Wallace Webster is a 50-something retiree (although not of his own choosing), a former architect and graphic artist living in Kemah, Texas, in a condo development called Forgetful Bay. Living alone after his divorce, Wallace's quirky college-aged daughter visits periodically, and he also has a somewhat complicated relationship with Jilly, a younger former coworker. He's not quite sure how h
Dec 20, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a quick, quirky read but I'm questioning the quality.

Barthelme is an older gentleman, as is the main character, Wallace. I think there was too much of the author portraying a life HE would like (and perhaps he does, I don't know.) Lots and lots of women yet he has his space for sleeping all day and roaming about at night without much to do except surf the net on his preferred Mac. Near the end is the worse proposal (of marriage? of moving in together? Just hanging out?) I've ever heard
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
The mistake is that I read the whole thing.

It was mostly a white bread sandwhich with nothing in the middle and a side of “eh, who cares?”

Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This is a book I won on goodreads firstreads. A strange book. Things happen in this condo in Texas, several deaths and unusual happenings, but it is all handled the way any neighbors might stand around and talk about things. It almost seems like things are not happening when they are happening. This is definitely literary fiction. Events flow out. If a reader needs action scenes, it won't happen in this book. It took me almost 20 days to read because I'd put it down for several days at a time. Y ...more
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
My first experience of Barthelme’s writing – and a good one. Not a lot happens in the novel - except for a series of deaths which all impact in some small way on the protagonist Wallace Webster, recently retired after being made redundant and now living alone in a housing complex in Galveston, Texas. These deaths amongst his fellow residents don’t bother Wallace a great deal, however – in fact nothing much seems to bother him. He seems eternally disassociated from everyone around him. But he’s a ...more
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
barthelme always writes as if it was the union of concerned scientists monthly newsletter. so how the fuck does he make his novels so affecting?!
this set in the bogs south of houston, north of galveston, in a condo. so the epitome of stupid usa nowheresville AND in the path of flooding, winds, cancer hot spots, oil spills, and affluence.
asks the question: how should (can?) a person be with the ennui, sad family history (death divorce etc), good friends and family, shopping at target, art of mod
May 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads, 2015
I received this as a first read. This was an interesting novel. It is definitely funny. I also really enjoy the concept of man who retired early and finds something weird is going on in his new neighborhood. I do really like the writers style. However it took me a while to actually get in his style. I enjoy this book . Yet, I think though if I read more of this author I might enjoy the other books more.
Shannon Upton
Nov 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book seemed to have an interesting premise (a recently retired man moves into a neighborhood where strange things are happening) but that's not really what the book was about. Very character-driven, lots of commentary on society, not much plot, at all. If you're about pitiful characters and thinking about society's plights, you may want to read it. It just wasn't my thing.
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-south
I have been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, with more in the on deck circle, so was in need of a palate cleanser. This little book was perfect. I totally get the appeal of rundown touristy places along forgotten coast lines, and so does this author. The story took some strange twists and turns, and I loved every one of them.
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
A wry, funny look at 21st-century suburban American life. The prose is accessible and the dialogue is sharp. I was never a fan of Donald Barthelme, but I'll have to read more of Frederick. The ending sure did get dark, though.
Barbara Nutting
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it
A scatterbrained story with a bunch of screwball characters living in the “Condo from Hell”. The Real Housewives of Forgetful Bay is how it is described - that says it all - a constant sleep around. Not as amusing as it sounds but an easy quick read with a great finale!
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, library_books
A short review -- wanted to say that I found the protagonist easy to relate to, and appreciated the Texas Gulf setting details.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Barthelme knows my corner of the world. Familiar yet strange through his eyes.
Nov 12, 2014 rated it liked it
The writing was engaging and I enjoyed the book but I must not be bright enough to get the meaning because I thought the end blew.
Ed Willliamson
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Good read. you get to know Wallace and the rest of the folks at the housing development, who share some bad news and the deaths of neighbors. I was surprised by how it all turned out in the end.
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Old people are dying at a Texas gulf side condo development.
No big whoop. That's what they do.
Ken Heard
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I know it's not polite to give away spoilers in reviews here, but I thought the ending of Frederick Barthelme's "There Must Be Some Mistake," is a perfect, brilliant metaphor for life's journey and our attempts to corral and understand the travails of such a journey.

Wallace Webster is a 50-plus, former artist/designer who is now a pensioner, living in a Texas Gulf coast condo. Odd deaths, both natural and suspect, occur in the subdivision and Webster and his friends ponder it all. Like most revi
Pop Bop
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Calm, Elegant, Laid Back Truth Telling, on the Rocks

Whenever I sit down with a Frederick Barthelme book I know I'm going to have an interesting conversation with grownups. Maybe over a few, but not too many, drinks. Barthelme's characters are usually older, retired from or between jobs, and currently retired from or between lives. They are calm and observant and reflective and you feel that Frederick Barthelme and his characters have lived real lives. The books usually have a bit of plot, becaus
Maura Heaphy Dutton
This book won't be for everyone. As other readers have pointed out, nothing happens. And then, just in case you miss the point, the characters have another coffee, or a scotch, take a walk around the block, reminisce about some long-closed restaurant, arrive back at their front door and then ... yep, still nothing happened.

This is as little unfair, although almost as much fun to write as it was to read Barthelme's beautifully crafted "conversations about nothing." On the surface, a LOT happens:
Jessica Sullivan
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book has been sitting on my shelf for a couple years now, and I'm so glad I finally decided to read it -- particularly now that I'm going through a Don DeLillo phase, and Frederick Barthelme's style is so similar.

The story centers on Wallace Webster, a retired commercial artist living in a condo development in suburban Texas. We learn about Wallace's past: like many Americans, he settled for a job he wasn't crazy about, divorced his wife after their marriage gradually became less satisfying
Mar 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
Wow, what a stinker.

Usually books like this, with a vague suburban mystery connecting the characters together, end up being delightful character studies. In this case, most of the characters are indistinguishable from each other because they all have the same phony dialogue. I'm not sure the author has ever heard another human being speak. None of the characters are interesting or developed enough to care about them and neither is the main "strange things are happening here" idea that's supposed
Beth Peninger
Sep 06, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for this free copy. In an exchange for this copy I am giving an honest review.

Huh. Perhaps I missed the point of Barthelme's story? I finished the book and was left wondering what the point was. It was a very mundane story with rather mundane characters. There was nothing very compelling about any of it. I kept reading because I kept thinking something was going to happen to really shake up the story and perhaps the characters but nothing real
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Barthelme's works are known for their focus on the landscape of the New South. Along with his reputation as a minimalist, together with writers Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Amy Hempel, and Mary Robison, Barthelme's work has also been described by terms such as "dirty realism" and "K-mart realism."He published his first short story in The New Yorker,and has claimed that a rotisserie chicken helped ...more

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