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White Elephant

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  595 ratings  ·  145 reviews
The WHITE ELEPHANT looms large over the quaint suburban town of Willard Park: a gaudy, newly-constructed behemoth of a home, it soars over the neighborhood, dwarfing the houses that surround it. When owner Nick Cox cuts down Allison and Ted Millers’ precious red maple—in an effort to make his unsightly property more appealing to buyers—their once serene town becomes a batt ...more
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published March 26th 2019 by Ecco
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3.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  595 ratings  ·  145 reviews

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Jennifer Blankfein
Enjoy the Crazy, Behind the Scenes Look at Suburbia in this humorous, satirical debut novel, White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf.
Having grown up and currently living in a small town in suburbia, where over time, modest houses are knocked down and replaced by mansions, trees are removed so yards can have more sunlight, and neighbors have disputes over fences, branches, mailboxes and plowing, I have witnessed communities caught up in grievances surrounding property lines, barking dogs and early morn
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive, dnf
Beware of books where all the 5 star reviews come from other authors and/or obvious friends of the author of the book. There is nothing amusing, interesting or meaningful about this book. Abandoned.
Julia Phillips
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sharp, sly, and laugh-out-loud funny, this novel follows three families in a DC suburb as their parents, children, and notions of home come into conflict. Julie Langsdorf's descriptions of the anxieties of the wealthy – what their neighbors are up to, how their marriages appear from the outside, whether their houses are appreciating in value – are so good, claustrophobically good, making you prickle with their tension as you read. You can feel Langsdorf's love for every character even as you rel ...more
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, I do enjoy a good suburban satire. Langsdorf focuses on three main families living in an established neighborhood in a fictional DC suburb. All have different expectations. As McMansions threaten to take over the smaller, but charming original homes, a classic fight over trees ignites political unease. All hell breaks loose in this darkly humorous take on suburban life. Satire soothes my soul. I love when we can tastefully poke fun at real issues, however big or small.
Angie Kim
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! What an amazing lens into a supposedly “idyllic” suburban DC community. It’s so rich, weaving together so many threads, each unique and fresh in its own way. On the one hand, it’s a witty and satirical commentary on American suburbia, and at the same time, there’s a lot of insight about what it means to be a mother/wife and what the ramifications are for women’s own individual needs and desires. The mix is fascinating, and the novel as a whole is sharp, warm, and downright hilarious.

Megan Collins
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To put it as succinctly as possible, I LOVED this book.

With WHITE ELEPHANT, Julie Langsdorf perfectly captures life in the suburbs--the tension and competition between neighbors, the comfort of cozy familiar spots, the dreams that get put on hold to keep things afloat, and the sense of community that can be both stifling and lifesaving.

The characters in this novel were all incredibly rich, written with so much depth and empathy that I often found myself not only sympathizing, but actually fall
Kathryn in FL
This novel explores family dynamics and pressures of marriage in it's perplexities. The novel is a century old, small, bedroom community of a large city somewhere in the Northeast. This community of Willard Park is representational of society as a whole. One is the juxtaposition of the other.

Willard Park is a microcosm of the challenges of defining what is good and desirous as well as what is no longer valued and unnecessary. As the community considers its preservation and future. What and how a
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goodreads-win
"It's so Norman Rockwell," Suzanne said. (...)Grant said, "Yeah. A little eerie. Remember the Twilight Zone episode..." from White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf

Willard Park is a close community filled with early 20th c Sears kit houses and family-friendly ambiance. In the center of town, there is a band shell decked out in bunting. Halloween is an all-day affair (with an implicit ban on sugar) ending with singing 1960s era folk songs around a bonfire. You know, seasonal songs like If I Had A Hamme
Whitney Scharer
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a terrific book! I loved this portrait of a seemingly perfect small town that descends into chaos when a hideously large house (Dubbed the "White Elephant" by other residents) is erected by a new builder. The plot is absorbing and moves along briskly, but what makes this book so wonderful is the rich portrait of all the characters. Whether we like them or not, we sympathize with all of them--and even find ourselves rooting for them even if we don't agree with their choices. A funny and wise ...more
Colleen McDonough
This is an incredibly well-written, thought out novel. I really loved reading it, and will be recommending it to anyone who asks for a new book to read!
Natalie Sheffo
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book! The writing is clever and the characters are dynamic and entertaining. This is a wonderful debut novel, and I can't wait to read more by the author in the future!
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed with this one. With blurbs from power authors Meg Wolitzer and Cynthia Sweeney, I expected a whole lot more than I got.
Apr 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I’m not afraid to admit I have what are referred to as “first world problems”. My home’s WiFi connection is spotty. I have a neighbor who takes his garbage out at seemingly the worst time possible – translation: past my daughter’s bedtime, and sometimes my own – and loudly, to boot. My spacious patio, larger than most peoples’ apartments, needs to be re-stained. The gall that such matters would find their way into my life and disrupt the balance I’d worked so hard to achieve!

I’m kidding, by the
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

I have a soft spot for books that shine a light on suburban malaise if they're satirical in tone and especially if they don't expect me to sympathize with men having mid-life crises. All the terrible men in this book are portrayed as weenies and it was great! Most characters and their motivations are at least slightly (if not completely) ridiculous, with the town's environmentalism and community spirit outed as less altruistic than previously
Kate Hope
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the tradition of great stories about distinctive houses (Mansfield Park, Bleak House, I Capture the Castle) is the delicious debut White Elephant. The book invites us into the small suburban community of Willard Park and the complex emotional allegiances of its inhabitants. This place and these people are so familiar, and yet they are completely engaging. The author’s voice is sharp—its depiction of everyday domestic life reminds me at times of Austen—but also tender. We see these characters’ ...more
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Julie Langsdorf's debut novel, WHITE ELEPHANT, is a visual, rich description of a small town divided. While a calming, beautifully-written, relaxed read, the book doesn't shy from important subjects. The characters are fully developed, leaving the reader "rooting" for every character as she or he struggles within the main theme of the book as well as those outside of the theme -- that is, dealing with their own, internal demons. Langsdorf is a sharp observer of human nature. This is the kind of ...more
Michael Durbin
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vivid and authentic setting, rich characters of every stripe, delightful language, and tight storylines that keep you intrigued until the very end. What more could you want in a novel? White Elephant is a great read.
*I won an arc of this book in Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review*
I really enjoyed the writing in this book. It had enough humor, and it was relatable, it flowed really well. But the story was basically about nothing. Just glimpses of different worlds of different people. I thought the dispute over the big house would be the central point here but it was the secrets or things we don't want to talk about (the big elephant in the room). It's about how hard it is to say what you fee
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a thing for all things dysfunctional so through in a community of neighbours who are just that and you have me hooked on a book.

This is an engrossing debut that I practically devoured. Willard Park is an idyllic community on the outskirts of DC. From quaint little cottages, good schools to Lucy’s coffee shops - you get the feel that it is the perfect suburb to want to live. But when Nick Cox moves in and takes down Ted’s much loved maple tree, it starts a rivalry and discord within the co
Ericka Seidemann
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs
Perfect for fans of Tom Perrotta and Jonathan Tropper, White Elephant is an impressive debut that I binge-read in a couple of days. These neighbors are so dysfunctional, and yet, so relatable. I wanted to simultaneously hug and yell at every character in this book.

Charming 100-year-old Sears homes, a children’s library, the local coffee shop where everyone has their own mug . . . an idyllic bedroom community for upper-middle class families. All is perfect in Willard Park, until newcomer architec
Andrea Bartz
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A warm, witty, and at times laugh-out-loud funny read about suburban ennui and what it means to accept your loves ones (and yourself!) for who they are, not who you want them to be. Langsdorf has a knack for capturing the calisthenics we do in our heads every day as we struggle to seem like we have it all together. She's also a beautiful writer; WHITE ELEPHANT is packed with rich descriptions, snappy dialogue, and impressively complex characters—not easy to pull off with a large ensemble cast. I ...more
Anamaria Cole
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
White Elephant is a great story, with lots of cozily familiar situations and interesting characters you cannot help but to love and hate. The big new house in town, also known as 'the white elephant’, raises havoc in a quaint town already simmering with fraught situations. The characters are well-developed and you'll find yourself relating to them in different ways. Slowly but surely, the author manages to beautifully weave all the stories together into a poignant finale. White Elephant is a boo ...more
Jeannie Zusy
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining, compelling and surprising tale told with great humor and compassion. So relevant for these divided times. I loved White Elephant and I highly recommend it!
Lisa Christopher
This book started out ok but then it took a weird twist. The characters became really unlikable.
Robert Intriago
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, fiction
Great character development and decent writing and that is the reason I gave it a 2. The story did little for me. I found it boring and childish at times. It was neither funny, satirical or informative. After reading a review in one of the national papers I was looking forward to reading it. I was disappointed with this first try by the author. She has potential and a better subject may bring the best out.
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many thanks to the Goodreads Giveaways program for an advance readers copy of this book. ‘White Elephant’ casts a bright, gimlet eye on a modern suburban neighborhood of Washington D.C. The story centers around three families and the narrative about this cast of characters is both funny and sad by turns. Author Julie Langsdorf understands and describes both the closeness and also an underlying loneliness that may exist for people in small communities, in families, and in marriages. Her portrayal ...more
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
This was a really decent story. It centered around a community and the impact of a building coming into that world in tandem with stories about marriage breaks downs, issues with acceptance in the community, and other relationship complexities. In many ways it reminded me of what Kingsolver does in Unsheltered, though for me this narrative lacked in that central thread tying all of these separate charter arcs together.

Read if you enjoy character driven books and enjoy the writing of authors lik
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A perceptive, clever look at suburban life and the complexities of marriage, parenthood, and community. White Elephant follows three families in Willard Park, a suburb in DC. The construction of a massive home in the quaint neighborhood leads to turmoil among the neighbors, and brings to the surface some of the characters' marital tension and personal struggles. Some were particularly poignant to see on the page: Ted's relationship with Terrance, his intellectually disabled brother; Kaye's insec ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was...fine. Not sure I understand all the fuss. Lots of unlikeable characters.
Jennie Litvack
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Engaging. Insightful. Thought-provoking. Great for book clubs. Highly recommended!
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Julie Langsdorf has received four fiction grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and her short stories have appeared in several literary magazines. White Elephant, her debut novel, was named a new book to watch for and an editors' choice by The New York Times, a book not to miss by USA Today, a highly anticipated debut novel by The LA Times, a best new book by Southern Living Magazine and Rea ...more
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