Thursday, August 9, 2012

Leftovers by Arthur Wooten

     It's 1955, and Vivian Lawson is a childless divorcee living in a June Cleaver world.  After her husband leaves her for another woman, Vivian cannot possibly imagine how she will manage to get back on her feet.  After all, she never had much formal education, her cooking is pretty bad, and she lacks any semblance of self-confidence.  Luckily, she has a very devoted friend, Babs, who is happy to feed, clothe, and shelter poor Vivian for the time being.  Babs lives with her brother, Stew, who has developed a big ole crush on Vivian, so he is more than willing to share the tiny space with her as well.

     Through Babs, Vivian is introduced to the world of Tupperware, and is soon recruited as a full-time Tupperware Lady.  At first, though, being a saleswoman is overwhelming and intimidating.  She has to plan Tupperware parties, sell the product door-to-door, and exude a certain Tupperware image.  But Vivian soon finds out that, not only is she funny and entertaining, she can confidently and successfully sell the cutting-edge culinary products and support herself financially without a husband.

     Leftovers is a heartwarming story, and a comedic portrayal of domestic life in the 1950s, but it's just a little too heartwarming for my taste.  Seemingly overnight, Vivian transforms from a suicidal, helpless little ex-housewife into a sparkling, confident national icon.  She is THE Tupperware Lady, and of course, all her dreams come true.  I really appreciate the idea behind Wooten's book - to showcase how the plastics industry changed the lives of women all over America through their products and sales opportunities.  If women could support themselves financially, they could escape domestic slavery.  And products like Tupperware allowed them to do so.  But Vivian's story is just a bit over the top for me, and sometimes, she's just gratuitously ditzy.

     Oh and as if things don't turn out perfect enough for Ms. Lawson, (spoiler!) her husband does indeed come crawling back to his little caterpillar who has transformed into a beautiful (and wealthy) butterfly.  No of course she doesn't take him back! She is a refined Tupperware lady now, but it's nice to know he realized his mistake isn't it?  Ugh...the whole plot gave me cavities!  If you want a super light, fluffy, fairy-tale of a story, Leftovers will satisfy your craving.  After all, the plot is fast-paced and the happy ending is painfully predictable, but if you were hoping for a real feminist perspective on domestic life in the 1950s, this book might feel a little underwhelming and (ahem) stale.  Wooten's story is like an empty Tupperware container - a good framework, but no substance.  Ok.  I'm finished with the plastic puns now!

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