The Portable Veblen, by Elizabeth Mckenzie*****

theportableveblen“There is a terrible alchemy coming.”

Veblen has led an insular life, focusing her energies on genealogy, a love of nature, and oh dear heaven, her mother. The fact is, her mother is both dominant to an extreme degree, and frankly more than a little bit squirrely. But when Veblen meets Paul, her life changes dramatically; but even more so than most young women, she finds that she needs to be flexible to accommodate Paul, whose needs are different from her own.

A huge thank you goes to Net Galley and Penguin Random House Publishers for permitting me a DRC. I nearly let this title pass unread by me, thinking, because of the cover art, that it was going to be a cutesy animal story, its humor no doubt cloying. I could not have been more mistaken, and so thanks are also due to whatever journalist’s review was posted in my hometown newspaper. Realizing my error, I rushed to the computer to see if it would still be possible, at this late date, to read it free.

It was indeed.

Dr. Paul Vreeland, neurologist and researcher, seeks some normalcy and order in his life. He was raised in a communal environment by parents determined to avoid the rat race and its social conventions as well. All of them. Had he been raised in an urban environment, someone would have probably called the authorities and had him removed from the filth, the drugs, and oh yes, the dreadful embarrassment. When he meets Veblen, he senses that she is fresh and unpretentious, but does not fully grasp just how much she wants to be like his parents—well, minus the drugs.

When Veblen is under stress, she starts anthropomorphizing squirrels. She is certain she can talk to them and that they understand what she’s saying. The stranger her mother behaves, the more Veblen is drawn to squirrels.

And now, a personal note. A good friend of mine took a respite from the grinding, long hours of social work, and for awhile she worked as a wedding planner. It didn’t last long. Having had so much experience dealing with disparate personalities in her initial career, she often felt the urge to hurl herself between the prospective bride and groom, upon whose union tens of thousands of dollars was being lavished. She wanted to cry out, “Just get away from each other, both of you! This marriage will be over before the year is over, so just don’t go there!”

And this is what I wanted to do as of the 33 percent mark. I wanted to haul Veblen back to the rundown cottage she occupied by preference, and haul Paul back to his state-of-the-art medical facility, and have them never see one another again.

Then again, their relationship is hysterically funny, and all of us can use a good laugh, followed by another, and yet another.

The reader can approach this hugely original tale on one of two levels. It can be read as literary fiction, with the squirrel as metaphor. Or one can just read it, and sit back and howl with laughter.

One way or the other, this unbelievably clever, hilarious book is available for purchase now, and it is highly recommended to everyone.

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