PLUMBERSUTRA by Cecilia Kochanowski


The Art of Living in the Suburbs
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A string of snarky observations on such suburban conundrums as first-time home buying, commuting, buying an SUV, roof-remodeling and, of course, plumbers.

Kochanowski takes obvious delight in turning her wry eye to the unique priorities of the ’burbs, having just moved there from Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Breezily insular, Plumbersutra traces her lateral shift from entitled urbanite to entitled suburbanite who’s gone native even while preserving the threads of her detached irony. Kochanowski’s dual approach–externally mocking the Joneses while secretly matching them stride for stride–operates throughout the effervescent chapters: creating the perfect lawn; wrestling with the city council; tying down tarps; expressing both fascination and exasperation with deer. Along with liberal doses of self-absorption, she injects an admirable amount of detail into her writing, though her focus is indiscriminate. Lavish Proustian attention on, for example, the perfect shade of yellow paint, comes across as shallow and materialistic, even for a writer as addicted to possessive pronouns as this one. In addition, most of her witticisms delve little deeper than superficial observations. The characters assisting in and standing in the way of her American Dream–Janusz, her dutiful Polish husband, less a stranger to these circumstances than she; her crabby neighbor; her fellow train commuters; her maverick plumber, Dave–are, for the most part, skillfully rendered and often genuinely funny, and her glee in setting up punchlines and delivering zingers is infectious. Kochanowski displays potential as a writer, even if acknowledging it requires the reader to demonstrate a high tolerance for self-indulgence. Fellow expats will identify most strongly with the author; the rest of us can hope she aims her raw talent at tales far more relevant–and far less narcissistic–than those presented here.

Enjoyable, and harmlessly superficial.

Pub Date: April 25th, 2006
ISBN: 0-595-38672-5
Program: Kirkus Indie
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