Jan 25, 2016

The Portable Veblen, by Elizabeth McKenzie

I really enjoyed this smart, funny novel set in the Bay Area. Veblen and Paul are thirty-somethings with some baggage in the form of Mom and Dad. Veblen is named for thrifty, anti-consumerist economist Thorstein Veblen; her father is in a mental home for his severe PTSD and her mother is an incredible hypochondriac. Paul is a neurologist starting a medical trial for a field trepanning tool of his own design; his parents are inveterate hippies and his older brother is mentally disabled. Veblen has spent her entire life making sure her mother feels loved and happy and dealing with the immense stress that causes by talking to squirrels, while Paul has always struggled with his unconventional upbringing and the attention his parents pay to his brother, finding solace in traditional forms of status and wealth. After four months together, Paul asks Veblen to marry him, but the more they delve into each other's pasts and families, this seems less and less like a good idea...

But people will surprise you. Perhaps being with someone so different from each other forced them to finally come to terms with their own inconsistencies. Paul's ethics are tested when his product is illegally fast-tracked, and Veblen's conversations with squirrels really seem to be getting out of control. This is a wonderful love story, very well-researched and so enjoyable. This is the kind writing that seems effortless, making for effortless reading, which of course means the author put a huge amount of work into it. There is little or nothing to complain about this book, I highly recommend it!

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