A hilarious debut novel about an eclectic group of merchants at a Kansas antique mall who become implicated in the kidnapping of a local beauty pageant star.
The city of Wichita, Kansas, is wracked with panic over the abduction of toddler pageant princess Lindy Bobo. However, the dealers at The Heart of America Antique Mall are too preoccupied by their own neurotic compulsions to take much notice. Postcards, perfume bottles, Barbies, vinyl records, kitschy neon beer signs—they collect and sell it all.
Rather than focus on Lindy, this colorful cast of characters is consumed by another drama: the impending arrival of Mark and Grant from the famed antiques television show Pickin’ Fortunes,who are planning to film an episode at The Heart of America and secretly may be the last best hope of saving the mall from bankruptcy. Yet the mall and the missing beauty queen have more to do with each other than these vendors might think, and before long, the group sets in motion a series of events that lead to surprising revelations about Lindy’s whereabouts. As the mall becomes implicated in her disappearance, will Mark and Grant be scared away from all of the drama or will they arrive in time to save The Heart of America from going under?
Equally comical and suspenseful, Heart of Junk is also a biting commentary on our current Marie Kondo era. It examines why certain objects resonate with us so deeply, rebukes Kondo’s philosophy of wholesale purging, and argues that “junk” can have great value—connecting us not only to our personal pasts but to our shared human history. As author Luke Geddes writes: “A collection was a record of a life lived, maybe not well or happily but at least with attention and passion. It was autobiography made whole.”
Luke Geddes holds a PhD in comparative literature and creative writing from the University of Cincinnati. Originally from Appleton, Wisconsin, he now lives Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the author of the short story collection I am a Magical Teenage Princess and his writing has appeared in Conjunctions, Mid-American Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Washington Square, The Comics Journal, Electric Literature, and elsewhere.
As I was reading this, I was finishing the process of unpacking both my own and some of my late mother's possessions into a new apartment. (Moving really cuts into your reading time, by the way.) There's nothing like moving to make you wonder why you have what you have ("OK, I declare a moratorium on buying nail polish"), why you're missing things you need (how did I not have my own can opener, and where did I put the shower curtain hooks?!), and where your possessions fit into your life. So I was primed to read Luke Geddes' satiric novel about possessions, and how they can define, comfort, and enslave us.
A young girl who is a frequent beauty pageant contestant is missing in Wichita, Kansas. Also in Wichita, the Heart of America antique mall is on its last legs. The desperate owner is hoping that a visit by the hosts of an HGTV-like program devoted to "picking" junk and antiques will save it, and him. His daughter resents that her parents have spent what should have been her college savings on that mall and a collection of antique pottery. The tenants of Heart of America have more issues than the entire run of National Geographic magazine (something you can no doubt find in one of the booths). And an MC Hammer action figure goes on a strange and hilarious odyssey. These stories all combine into an amazing whole over the course of a few days.
You know the kind of person who strives to be cynical and snarky, but really has a good, bruised, tender heart that they're working to defend? Heart of Junk is like that in novel form. Geddes makes the reader care about his initially off-putting characters. Every character is eccentric and troubled, and a few are nuttier than squirrel poop. Their inner lives are made external through mountains of stuff. Geddes will have the reader shaking their head and laughing, then casually drop an important piece of information that changes the reader's perspective.
This is not a novel that will appeal to everyone, or even the majority of readers. Some people will be offended or feel demeaned by it. Some will dislike the cacophony of viewpoints and many story threads crammed into 240 pages. But if it's for you, it will *really* be for you.
Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
“Heart of Junk” by Luke Geddes has such a fun and enticing cover that I knew I had to pick it up. The cover reminded me of some of the things I’ve been holding onto since childhood, such as the first book I ever read (“Fun With Dick and Jane”) and mementos from family and friends. I feel good about keeping those items but I know there are lots of old treasures (junk) I could get rid of at a place like the “Heart of America Antique Mall.” Geddes has written a satirical novel about a group of unusual characters who sell their “treasures” at an antique mall in middle America. There is an ideal mix of dark humor and suspense and a great deal of quirkiness. The ending seemed a little weak, but otherwise this was a entertaining book.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Thank you, Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for sending me a digital ARC, in exchange for an honest review.
This seems to be a very conflicted novel. Either people love it or loathe it. I thought the writing was excellent. The dialogue was crisp and very humorous. Keep in mind, this book is a SATIRE. Not everyone will enjoy this particular genre because some of the characters are written in a stereotypical way, but it's NOT to be taken seriously, which is the point of a satire. If you don't get easily offended, then "Heart of Junk" by Luke Geddes will tickle your fancy.
I loved the overall plot and setting. The story takes place in Wichita, Kansas at an antique mall called, "The Heart of America". There we meet the overzealous merchants who are devoted to their craft of selling their beloved "junk" to the public. Some of them can't even part with their prized collections because of sentimental value. There's also another subplot introduced involving a local beauty pageant (8 year-0ld, Lindy Bobo) who has recently gone missing. Without giving too much away, one of the merchants might be involved in Lindy's disappearance. The novel takes place over 4 days, and the chapters alternate between 7 main characters: Margaret, Keith, Ellie (my personal favorite), Delores, Ronald, Seymour, and Lee. Usually I'm not a fan of reading multiple points-of-view, but I found each character versatile, refreshing, and kooky enough to keep the story/pacing moving forward in a fluid manner.
I thought "Heart of Junk" was a fun and wholly original. I've never read a book quite like this before. As I previously stated, each character fits a stereotype but it's done more for comedic effect than to be mean-spirited. Some of the scenarios are a little far-fetched and outrageous, but I was still entertained, insanity and all. It's not a perfect book, I think the author cut the story a little too short, but overall I enjoyed my stay at "The Heart of America".
In the beginning, I had high hopes for this book! It was purchased as a mystery book (wrapped in paper) and I was pleasantly surprised at the laugh out loud moments and the idiosyncrasies of the characters. However, after a while, I realized I had no one to root for. Unfortunately, most of the characters in this book are assholes and I found it difficult to invest in their development.
TL;DR review: Heart of Junk is a laugh-inducing, refreshing little story that will tug at your heart strings harder than you expect. Every character is weird a lovable and well-written. I loved it.
For you if: You’re looking for a good giggle, and maybe to have your heart cracked open a little bit.
Big thank you to the folks over at Simon & Schuster for sending me an advanced review copy of this book! You were right, this was right up my alley, and I’m so glad to have read it.
Me at the end of chapter 1: “Oh my gosh, this book is going to be hilarious.” Me at the end of chapter 3: “Oh my gosh, this book is going to break my heart.”
Heart of Junk is a story about a dying antique market told through the eyes of several characters — the market’s owner, his daughter, and several of the booth renters. Each one of them is super quirky and unique, and although it’s written in third person, Geddes brings each of their voices out loud and clear in each chapter’s narration. It’s funny and moving at the same time.
The premise is this: There’s a big TV show coming to tape an episode about the Heart of America, their sprawling and struggling antique market in Wichita, KS. Many of our characters have convinced themselves that the filming could solve the most pressing of their problems, but there’s a snag: A local little girl is missing, and it might keep the show from filming after all. One of our characters knows what happened to her, though.
Told in the span of five days, we wonder — will she be found? Will the show come to town after all? How on earth might this story wrap up on a hopeful note? Will Margaret admit the thing she’s denying? Will Lee and Seymour be okay? Will Kieth get some relief? etc etc etc
I expected to laugh with this one, but I didn’t expect to get walloped in the heart so many times! Geddes dives into and out of the seriousness of the situation, hooking you and bringing you to the brink of emotional release, only to drop in with perfectly timed comedic relief and show you that yes, these characters’ struggles are serious and worthy of your heart space, but also, let’s laugh because why not?
This was a great story to start the year with — light enough to be oodles of fun, but serious enough to feel like more than pure entertainment. I highly recommend.
This debut author has written a quirky treat for fans of flyover humor and fellow packrats.
It's based in Wichita Kansas at a large Heart of Ameria Antique Mall/Flea Market venue. The collection of wonderfully warped neurotic characters is on display in this dark but entertaining comedy. Geddes has written a surreal, hilarious but humane reckoning with America today: its consumerism, its culture, its nostalgia, its crap. A must read for the hoarder in us all! *Review by Jan from Camden Point*
very funny and a very full 240 pages and plotty (I love plot). I don’t have to care about what happens to enjoy a book or even be particularly curious, but I did care and was curious. Read in two sittings if such a metric holds weight for you.
3.5 stars. Luke Geddes is a 2011 graduate of Wichita State's MFA in creative writing program. I had a chance to hear him speak a couple of weeks ago at our local bookstore. In person, he is funny and warm with a dry wit and he surely has a bright future. The book though is odd and quirky; set in a fictional antique mall in Wichita, KS and it was fun to read about familiar places, although some of his characters are a bit snobby, snarky, and downright mean about life in Wichita. Geddes is not wrong, but it felt unduly harsh at times. The characters were not terribly likable and for a relatively short book, it felt like I was slogging through it at times.
This book may remind you of someone you know who likes to go "antiquing". Or maybe it will remind you of yourself if you like flea markets and garage sales. The novel is most interesting for its setting--a huge flea market in Wichita, Kansas. The story is told through the characters who rent the antique mall's booths as well as its owners.
The common thread among the characters seems to be how overburdened their lives are by the accumulation of material things. "Nobody ever bought anything to make themselves happy. They bought things to fill, with a Rookwood vase or a Bakelite napkin ring or a complete set of Star Wars cards, an aching void in their curio cabinets, closets, hearts."
Generation X takes a thumping. Most characters are in their mid-forties. It seems no one can figure out who they are in the midst of all the collectibles. For instance, "Seymour’s personality was a collection of quirks and affectations, defined more by the clothes and furniture and assorted junk he owned than attitude or disposition. His was more a commentary on what a personality was than a personality itself." The buyers and sellers nostalgia seems to define them while little else does.
The only one without all this literal baggage is the owners' 18 or so years old daughter Ellie. Ellie has nothing since her mother spent her college money on TV auction items. Her desire to flee the flea market regardless of her material possessions asks us whether personal experiences and relationships are not more important than accumulation of junk. And this is a really good question for this "sandwich" generation in between baby boomers and Millenials. Aren't we more than our stuff?
I was so primed to enjoy this book. As a 45 year old vinyl collector with the heart of a punk and a penchant for MCM and antique malls who lives in Wichita, KS, I was ready to poke fun of myself, smile, and enjoy a light ride. I saw the author speak at Watermark in Wichita during a small ice flurry. He was late to the talk (I assume weather-related), and was a little flustered when he arrived. He was nervous, self-deprecating, and talked with affection for esoteric weirdo music and visiting antique malls. He felt like my people.
I get that that the book was satire. But, I didn't have a character I liked, to view the satire through and be in on the joke. It just really felt like he truly hated it here. I guess the message in the satire was to place less value on the things and get the hell out of Wichita. Even the small happy ending he gave to the glass dealer, he made less by hitting her in the head with her object of hatred and ruining a moment that could have been a lovely movie in her mind. I realize she wasn't a deep character, but it felt like one last, "I really hate Wichita," on their way out of town. I really wanted to enjoy this book. I wanted to be part of the author's in-crowd who gets it. I feel terribly guilty writing these words, maybe I'm not cool enough to get it. But, I felt like my kiss was ruined by getting hit in the head with an MC Hammer doll.
2.75 stars rounded up. I used to seek out the local antique malls every time I arrived in a small town so the world of Wichita, Kansas’ fictional The Heart of America Antique Mall is one I am very familiar with. The author did an admirable job of setting the stage for his unique / strange group of dealers selling everything from cut glass to collectible records reinforcing that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. And while I enjoyed the references to the many toys and music from my childhood, I didn’t feel any compassion or real interest in the cast of characters. This is a satire so the group of dealers are intended to be odd and bizarre. There is a fair amount of funny dialogue and situations blended in with serious ones. However, this book may just be a tad too quirky for me. Others may disagree so you might want to check it out if this sounds like your taste. I still have my Barbie dolls but the ones in this book are just too over the top.
Thank you Edelweiss, Simon & Schuster and the author for an advance copy.
I was kind of disappointed by this book. I expected fun quirky characters. We got the quirky, but the fun was definitely not there. If you want depressed midwest characters without much to look forward to, this is your book. There is one character that I loved ... Delores who followed the voices of her Barbies. She was great!
This is one I really wanted to love---a darkly comic tale about a group of merchants who share space (sometimes acrimoniously) in a Wichita, Kansas, antique mall circa 2009. Two things connect the various stories: a visit from Mark and Grant, hosts of an Antique Roadshow-style show and the panic that's inflamed Wichita when a toddler beauty pageant contestant named Lindy Bobo goes missing.
I loved some of the storylines, particularly the conflict between repressed lesbian Margaret who takes an instant dislike to newcomers Seymour and Lee and their seeming flouting of *the rules* --
I found myself less interested in Lindy's disappearance and its impact on the visit from the television show celebrities. I read this was Luke Geddes' debut novel and the characters and dialogue are vivid, particularly the depiction of Wichita and its legacy of the BTK killer causing mistrust of anyone who chooses to go for a walk. Geddes has a great way with dialogue.
This is a novel set in the Heart of American antique mall in Wichita, Kansas, with its quirky characters, looming demise, and a missing child. although reviewed as a "hilarious debut novel" on the Simon and Schuster site and a "laugh till you cry, and cry til you laugh" novel by another reviewer, I did not find the same level of comedy. The characters, of which there are many, are not well developed in this short book and although there were a couple that I felt some sympathy for, generally I didn't care and was glad to just finish the book.
via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 'A collection was a record of a life lived, maybe not well or happily but at least with attention and passion. It was an autobiography made tangible.'
The Heart of America Antique Mall in the city of Wichita, Kansas is going under. For the impassioned collectors of what to others may be junk, this has been the one place they can display and sell the collectibles that are their lifeblood. They themselves are a collection of misfits, as strange and unique as the knickknacks they push on customers. Delores, a Barbie doll aficionado, communicates with her collection of rare dolls, abstaining from all of life’s pleasures for her betterment. Poor old widower and avid postcard collector Ronald finds himself stumbling, bumbling into quite a pickle without his wife to keep him in line. Lee, A middle aged man, is back in his childhood home with his partner Seymour in tow; they are the ‘fresh blood’ for the dying business, trying to peddle the ‘detritus’ of their life, the leftovers from their own failed vintage shop in Cambridge. Might the strain of this last stop place be too much for their dying relationship to handle?
Ellie feels like a caged animal, trapped working at her parent’s business since she was 13 and now likely for an extended stint thanks to her mother. Ellie wants nothing more than to spend her days trying to blank out her surroundings, dreaming of abandoning it all. This is not the future she desires, it is worse than death, so much so that she longs to be like the abducted beauty pageant toddler Lindy Bobo, at least something happened in her life. Bobo, whose face is on flyers, is soon discovered to have a strange connection to the very mall Ellie hates. The local child star’s disappearance is creating a ripple effect that may ruin Ellie’s dad’s plans for revival of the mall.
Keith, Ellie’s father and owner of The Heart of America is sure salvation will come in the form of the popular antiques show Pickin’ Fortunes. They just need the attention, and who better than the presenters Mark and Grant to shine a light on the place? But will the media attention of the missing child spoil his plans? Margaret Byrd spends her time feeling superior to the others, unlike the rest of the sellers, her things are treasures and the place is going to the dogs, now that ‘the gays’ have begun to sell pop junk in her friend’s former booth!She knows their things are certainly not antiques and will only put shoppers off! Pete Dean is the Dealer Association President, toy collector and hoarder, because of course this loud mouth isn’t serious about what he sells- but he always seems to know how to hook people, Delores especially.
Each of the characters in this novel are unraveling. The story has a slow beginning and then, out of nowhere, the most comical, ridiculous nonsense leads to serious trouble. Even the most uptight of them loses her grip on whatever semblance of control she had. They are disasters, and their future seems more doomed then poor little Lindy’s. Just how will it all end? In a tangle, of course!
I don’t understand why this book didn’t get more hype. As someone who has never fully grasped the world of thrifting, collecting, flea markets, and antiques, this was both hilarious and sort of educational. I listened to the audiobook and laughed out loud a handful of times. Sometimes the characters were a bit stereotypical, but I continued listening because it was also honest. I knew, cherished, and loved a friend who thrived in this business and adored all his treasures.
Maybe that’s why I enjoyed this- because it reminded me of you, Tom. I miss you every day, but I’m happy when I find myself remembering you, triggered by the most trivial things.
This book about an antique mall in Topeka filled with odd duck "dealers" who are barely making it. They love their collections more than anything. Oh yea, but someone has kidnapped a young beauty queen. Trust me, my description here doesn't make a lot of sense but I come from a family of collectors and for the first time, I really felt "scene" (on their behalf, I'm not a big collector). This book made my day. The audio is perfect. Loved each character more than the last.
Charming cast of characters with a fun setting. I love when people are really into things so I enjoyed all the collectors and their passions. The Lindy storyline didn't totally come together for me but this is a lovely book.
Seems like people either love or hate this book – I'm among those who loved it!
Such a fun and engaging satire. The characters were detailed, interesting, and often laugh-out-loud funny. I felt like I knew them. Yes, they are in some ways one-dimensional and archetypal – each character definitely has consistent themes that follow them through the story – but I think that's a necessity in order for the readers to keep up with all the different narrators. Each character still had enough quirks to be fun and unexpected for me!
The plot was silly, suspenseful at times, and a lovely combination of totally absurdist and deeply realistic. The book reads as a series of character vignettes following a moment in time in the lives of the narrators. Great "just like real life but not quite" world building.
Some of the other reviews note that the ending isn't amazing, and I get that: it's a little unsurprising, and some of the character arcs are a little unsatisfying, but that just makes it more realistic for me. A very "and then life goes on" style ending. All in all, highly recommend to anyone looking to dive into the absurdist, satirical world of a few eclectic folks who love antiques.
Although reviewed as "hilarious" as well as poignant, I found this story to be tragic for the most part. Loneliness and low self esteem leading to malignant self centeredness and obsession with objects to the detriment of human connection is not amusing. I did, however, find the story insightful and, in the case of a few of the characters, hopeful. I highly recommend this book, but not as a comedy.
The concept here was great, and I think overall the story would work well as a tv series or miniseries but the writing was a letdown. Some parts of this book seemed a bit homophobic and racist, sometimes both at the same time! Most of the characters were bigots in one way or another. Lots of self hate going on with the characters too, phew. Maybe the author is struggling with their own sense of identity I don't know but it sure was hard to read at times.
I'm going with 2.5-3 stars here because I enjoyed the plot and the setting but not the writing. The ending was a bit strange too. I think the author was going for a quirkier version of Nick Hornby but missed the mark. Way too many big words thrown into the internal musings of not exactly big word using characters.
Turn this into a tv series and it would work well. Poor M.C. Hammer.
My copy was provided by NetGalley for review, all opinions are my own.
While I did laugh out loud during a couple scenes, the characters were not enjoyable and I felt so bad for a lot of them. Even though I am only 31, reading the book reminded me of my own state of mind sometimes - that life is fleeting and it’s entirely possible to grow old and miserable. I didn’t enjoy the ending at all,/@ that dropped my rating from 3 stars down to 2. What should have been a quick read, ended up being broken down in 4 days - I simply didn’t have the energy to be pulled back to a depressing state of mind. In fact, I probably would not have finished it if it wasn’t one of my last picks from the library with no signs of opening back up soon.
I wanted to love this book - but alas, I didn’t and I can’t get that time back. I was going to pass the book off to my parents who have an antique booth themselves, but I didn’t want to pass along the doom & gloom feeling that one faces while reading it.
This is set in Wichita, Kansas and has a cast of kooky characters, so I wanted to love it ... but I didn't. Although its aim, I guess, is to show how characters (in this case, a ragtag bunch of dealers at a nearly defunct antique mall) with a range of problems find belonging and redemption, the story overall feels extremely mean. The author never misses a chance to excoriate Wichita as a cultural wasteland and look down his nose at the Midwest. Ok, we get it: you're superior. People in the Midwest are sad lonely shells of humans who can't sink any lower. I just don't go for that. If you're looking for complexity and uplift set in the Midwest (with kooky characters to boot), try Bryn Greenwood. Give this one a pass.
Things I loved about HOJ in no order: The knowledge on display about collectors and the second hand market across so many categories is so much fun to read. Geddes slips into the mind of these characters with the sensitivity of a method actor. It’s a potent rumination on possessions, the stuff people use to define their identity. The plot, well specifically the second half, is refreshingly tight and satisfying. This book has a lot going for it. Really enjoyed these characters and the way they strive to overcome their overwhelmingly bleak environs. A unique novel I’ll be thinking about for a while, especially as someone who is prone to accumulating.
I wish I could rate this book higher—I love the idea of it, but I couldn’t get on board with the author’s execution. I couldn’t find a single character to root for in this story. The author created a cast of fumbling, messy fools. A few times, I couldn’t help but think, “Is the author trying to make fun of rural America?” There were so many descriptions of slovenly, “fat” people; it felt gratuitous and almost mean. There were moments of hilarity in the writing, but overall I can’t recommend this book.
I had high hopes for this. I’ve spent a few weekends at antiques markets and I’ve become friends with a few sellers. They are kind, quirky people.
My biggest gripe with this book is that Geddes accentuates the flaws in his ensemble cast. I’ve seen a few reviews here saying that it’s hard to enjoy the book because the characters are so unlikeable, but I think it’s more that the author clearly dislikes the characters in his book, as if their chosen hobbies condemn them to his judgement.
Dislikable characters can be fascinating; characters that an author dismisses are unreadable.