A collection of wonderfully warped characters is on display in this dark, entertaining comedy.
At the Heart of America, the largest year-round antiques mall in Kansas, the tacky postcards, decorative sugar bowls, and vinyl copies of Whipped Cream & Other Delights might be in fine condition, but the dealers are all slightly damaged, or worse. There’s uptight and very white Margaret, who disdainfully judges new dealers by their stock (“There were artifacts and then there were knickknacks. There were knickknacks and then there was junk”). Delores, whose Barbies are wayyyyy closer to her than anybody realizes. Desperately hopeful mall owner Keith, who’s struggling with his eBay-addicted wife, Stacey, and hilariously bitter college-age daughter, Ellie. Seymour and Lee, whose relationship might not survive their recent move from Cambridge, Massachusetts. And Ronald, the awkward widower who’s got something extremely unusual hidden in storage. These eccentric losers may not always be likable, but they are delightfully readable. Geddes (I Am a Magical Teenage Princess, 2012) dissects their obsessions while acerbically, and knowingly, eviscerating collectors in general and Wichita in particular. (“In truth, Seymour felt more a victim of discrimination here as someone who preferred to walk or take public transportation than as a gay man. Which was not to say he and Lee didn’t get ugly looks on occasion. But he soon realized that here everyone got that look.”) The barbs can be cruel, and things wrap up in a way that could generously be considered perfunctory. By that point, fans of snarky, bizarre humor will have laughed enough that most won’t complain.
Readers who’ve gasped at a record-bin discovery or elbowed someone out of the way at an estate sale will enjoy this find.