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Donna Has Left the Building

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  465 ratings  ·  138 reviews
From the beloved, New York Times bestselling author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress comes a hilarious, timely, and big-hearted new novel about rebuilding life in the face of disaster.

Forty-five-year-old Donna Koczynski is an ex-punk rocker, a recovering alcoholic, and the mother of two teenagers whose suburban existence detonates when she comes home early from a sales
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Grand Central Publishing
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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Betsy Robinson
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Susan Jane Gilman is a funny writer—hilarious, belly-laugh-inducing, causing one to cough and gasp in joy—who writes real, complicated characters, complete with pain and delusions. And the reason they are so deeply funny is that Gilman is self-aware enough to know and show their flaws better than they know them.

I knew this after reading her last novel, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street , but when I realized how contemporary and domestic this new story was (about a wife and mother and cra
Jonathan K
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well balanced, this book brings humor, challenge, relationships and family in the form of a well paced story. It launches with a bang when Donna comes home early from a sales conference to find her husband dressed as a French maid while an unknown Dominatrix hovers over him. Formerly a Punk Rocker, her journey reinvigorates her past life. Her friends run the gamut, the journey's filled with surprises and the author's sense of humor filters throughout it. Tragic at times, its engaging and evocati ...more
Jennie Shaw
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Uncle Albert and Bert from the OG Mary Poppins, I love to laugh. And oh my, has it been a long time since a book has tickled my funny bone so relentlessly. In DONNA HAS LEFT THE BUILDING, what may appear to be a typical “wife comes home early to find husband in compromising situation” story is anything but. I cannot stress this enough: In no shape, way, or form have you read anything like this treasure trove of hilarity. Granted, Donna didn't find it terribly amusing, but that’s the awesome ...more
Geonn Cannon
I mean... It was okay, written well enough, but... okay, imagine if you're watching a normal tv show. It's a slice of life dramedy, reality-based sort of story. And then in the last few minutes, a meteor hits and destroys everything. It's not quite that drastic, but the last third of the book is a completely different setting with an entirely different plot. It really felt like the author just said "that stuff is boring, I want to write about this stuff now." Or maybe the story had just backed i ...more
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A few years ago, my introduction to Susan Jane Gilman's writing was through The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. That completely sold me on her talent and I was excited to dig into Donna Has Left the Building. Once again, she captivated me with her epic story about one woman's journey and downfall.

I could not get enough of Donna Koczynski. I loved her personality. She was edgy and vulnerable at the same time. I can see why she decided to take off running, but I won't tell you why as to not spo
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Donna is a failed punk rocker, a recovering alcoholic, and a mother of two teens. When she comes home early from a Las Vegas marketing conference (she's a "culinary ambassador" for Privileged Kitchen--think Pampered Chef), she gets the shock of her life when she discovers her husband getting his freak show on. As their relationship problems escalate, Donna takes off on a frenzied road trip to find relationships from the past but where she ends up and how she finds herself again is totally unexpe ...more
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Just as I thought I was coming to appreciate this honest, messy, uncomfortable portrait of a woman in a screwed up life, it took a turn toward global consciousness raising and totally lost me. It felt so grafted on, so "how can I make this more than a novel about a woman dealing with her individual life?" that I quit. So maybe it's not a fair review, but I can't bring myself to finish it.

Parts are well-written, parts are funny, parts are thought-provoking, but the whole was uneven, trying
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Direct, humorous, and edgy!

Donna Has Left the Building is a gritty, honest, bawdy novel that takes us into the life of Donna Koczynski, a middle-aged, married, recovering alcoholic, mother of two who embarks on a spontaneous, somewhat destructive road trip after returning home early from a conference to find her husband in a compromising position with a dominatrix.

The prose is witty and perceptive. The characters are unhappy, confused, and disappointed. And the plot is a reflective, brash, reali
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was sober, yet still, somehow, on an epic bender.

As her friend/college roommate/former TV psychic Brenda/Madame LaShonda Peyroux says at one point, Donna has a "way of saying awful things that just makes them sound really, really funny." Much to Gilman's credit, that's exactly true. There are definitely poignant moments, too (they come mainly when Donna's thinking about her two teenagers: "How could I blame my daughter? Apple: tree." and "I should've figured things out. I should've known m
May 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book way more than I actually did. Donna was a hot mess but that was the whole concept for the book. Plus, I did not mind that she was so scatter brained. This was the charm about her as well as it showed that she was relatable and human.

What did not work for me were everyone else. I could not find any connection towards any of them. Thus they just faded into the mobpit. Which, Donna is a star in her own right but she actually benefits from others to help with her s
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny, a whirlwind, contains universal truths, poignant. Growing older is complicated, parenting is complicated, life is complicated. I appreciated the multi-dimensional characters. And I enjoy Gilman's ability for the characters to recognize humor or absurdity in the midst of their serious situations.
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Donna has what appears to be a normal middle class life. She lives in the suburbs, has a husband and two kids and a "work-from-home" sales job in true Tupperware fashion. Then, while attending a convention for her company, she saves a man's life and it sends her dashing back home where life quickly spirals out of control. There were parts of the first part of the book between Donna and her husband where I was laughing out loud, and I'm pretty sure the whole second part of the book was intended t ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019-read
The humor here was super obvious, kind of mediocre sitcom funny. The hijinks are excessively wacky. This one is more suburban mom cliche than ex-punkrocker.
Diane Secchiaroli
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very funny yet poignant story regarding one woman’s mid life crisis, secrets in a family, relationships, and finding oneself. Donna is a recovering alcoholic who discovers a secret about her husband, which she finds she can’t handle. The story is about her running away from her problems. Eventually she ends up in Greece and gets involved with the refugee problem going on at the time. Her relationship with her son and daughter are also explored. Good novel but the ending is confusing and leaves y ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A fun entertaining read! A great story about rebuilding your life and rediscovering yourself about bad times strikes. Very enjoyable from start to finish. I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway.
Susie Williams
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(thank you to the publisher for my copy of this book)

3 1/2 stars rounded up to 4.

This book is a wild ride. Seriously, wild. I have such crazy mixed feelings about it; I don't even really know how to process it. I'll start by saying that Gilman is a really talented writer who knows how to build characters. She also knows how to make readers laugh out loud. I was dying for the first third of this book. The story bordered on realistic and totally over the top that I found myself telling my husband
Barb Burrowes
I couldn’t really identify with the main character, so much bad decision making. The last part was the best part.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing's perfectly sound but, ugh! These middle-age coming-of-age tales leave me bored. I'm not going to pretend I read all of this; I read the beginning and the end and skipped over most of the middle. Its funny in an absurdist way and I can see how someone might like it more than I did.

Thanks to the publisher who were kind enough to send me an advance copy for review.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Donna Has Left the Building, by Susan Jane Gilman, is a standalone novel. Donna had big, wild dreams when she was younger, but she settled down with a steady man and gave most of them up. Now, she is a faithful wife and the mother of two teenagers, giving cooking demonstrations and selling kitchenware. Her life is boring but safe, she thinks.

But her relationship with her husband is neither as safe nor as steady as she thought. She takes off on an impromptu road trip, chasing after the person she
Tom Franklin
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Donna's story is played out in three acts -- Act One Sees Betrayal, Questioning and Anger; Act Two Finds her on a Road Trip to/from Hell; Act Three takes a Grecian Turn.

Her story has more downs than ups as Donna consistently shows her ability to make bad choices, chasing dreams and people that no longer exist -- including herself.

There's an all-but throw-away scene early in the second act where Donna remembers drunkenly challenging a former friend with the question, "What would you be willing t
Susan McGrath
I received an advance reader’s copy of Donna Has Left the Building by Susan Jane Gilman from the publisher (Grand Central Publishing) in exchange for an honest review. Donna Has Left the Building is scheduled for release on June 4, 2019.

Donna is forty-five. Her past as a punk rocker with a boyfriend who worships her as a goddess when they aren’t fighting is far behind her. She lives in suburbia with her dentist husband. She has two nearly adult children, one who is studying abroad. Donna’s job i
Teena in Toronto
Part one - Donna is a successful kitchen gadget salesperson and has been married to Joey. They have two children ... Ashley, who is in university and doing a semester in London, and Austin, who is in high school. Donna comes home early from a sales conference in Las Vegas and discovers Joey has been leading a secret life. She tries to adapt to his lifestyle but discovers she she can't.

Part two - After all the years of being a wife and mom, Donna takes off to find the fun and wild person she used
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a huge fan of Susan Jane Gilman's memoir "Undress Me In the Temple of Heaven." However, I'd never picked up any of her novels. So when I saw this novel pop up in my Vine queue, I knew I had to read it. So glad I did ... this book was a rollicking road trip through one woman's breakdown and how she comes out the other side stronger and more thoughtful and aware of all that is good in her life.

However, the book isn't boring in any way, shape, or form. In fact, it is pretty much a comedy whe
I first saw this book and thought it would be cool and original. Loved the cover. Indeed it was both those things, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Maybe it was the audio narration that pulled me out of it, but the content and flow of the story was alright for me.
This book centers on Donna, her husband and a bit of her kids. But it seems almost like a couple books meshed into one. The first "book" was centered around Donna making some discoveries about her husband and what she
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a hell of a f***ing ride.
I was pulled in from the second I opened this book. It felt like I was being dragged along by Donna after she caught her husband in a very unusual (and in her perspective, devastating) position and she decided to take her car on a very last minute and unplanned road trip across the country. That's not to say I felt "dragged along"; everything just happens so quickly that it feels like I'm speeding on a racecar through the story right along with Donna.
She is a midd
When I realized that this was written by the same author as Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing up Groovy and Clueless, I was really excited. However, I have so say I was disappointed by the beginning of the book. I don't think fiction comes as easily to Gilman. She is as witty as ever, and she has a keen eye for detail. Some of her characters, especially Zack and the kids, are convincing and finely drawn. The main problem, though, is the inner voice of Donna herself. Gilman seem ...more
Daniela Trivino
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book from a GoodReads giveaway.

Donna Koczynski was once a pink-haired, punk-rock-loving alcoholic with a hunky rockstar boyfriend. Fast forward twenty-six years, however, and she's a middle-aged kitchen supply sales rep, sober for over five years, with a boring dentist husband and two teenaged kids. When we're first introduced to Donna at the beginning of the novel it seems her life has settled down for good. Until a shocking encounter turns her life unexpectedly upside-down, and she
Leslie Lehr
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A perfect novel - for Independence Day Weekend and beyond. At bedtime last night, I wanted to finish the story so much that I persuaded my husband to wear my silk sleep mask so I could keep the light on.

Donna's liberation from the constraints of real life, her road trip to hell and beyond and back is so full of combustible energy, so en pointe with fun and family life and and our hopes and dreams and, um, teenagers, that I am in awe.

The writing is equally superb. Structured with a classic story
Nine Provinces
(audio version.)

1) This book is wildly entertaining.
2) It entertained me during quarantine, for which I am very grateful. I had it on audio while doing a lot of sewing, and it was a perfect companion. Easy to follow when doing other stuff.
3) The reader is the author. This is an uncommon talent, and she delivers a remarkable voice for the MC.
4) The characters are fun to get to know.
5) I loved Ms. Gilman's previous work, Ice Cream Queen.

You've already heard the plot. Midlife crisis turns wild rid
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I received this advanced readers copy from a Goodreads giveaway; thank you.

This is Donna’s middle-age crisis story that made me smile (a little) and cringe (a lot). It explores the topics of how do you make your teenage dreams come true at 45?, why didn’t they come true? Why did we choose to settle? When did our life become so ordinary? when we were so extraordinary and that we could do anything we set our minds to (we thought). How could we let that happen? Of course, in the narrative of this n
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Susan Jane Gilman’s new novel, “Donna Has Left the Building” will be published in June 2019. She is also the bestselling author of three nonfiction books “Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress,” “Undress me in the Temple of Heaven,” and “Kiss My Tiara," as well as the novel, "The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street." She's provided commentary for National Public Radio. She has an MFA in Creative Writing ...more

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