The Portable Veblen

By Elizabeth McKenzie

4 out of 5 stars

Veblen (named after economist Thorstein Veblen,) is one of the most different leading characters that I have ever read. She’s what you would call a free spirit. She is a secretarial temp, which doesn’t bother her at all and a Norwegian translator. She has a mother who is very wrapped up in herself and quite the hypochondriac. Her father has mental issues and is in a care facility. She loves her fiance Paul, a doctor who is researching a tool that will help ease the pressure on the brain. His research is using war veterans and both families have dealt with loss from war. When he asks her to marry him, she is hopeful but she still has a niggling doubt. They are so different and with all the troubles of her past, can she be the wife he wants and she wants to be?

Oh and then there is the squirrel. You wouldn’t think a squirrel would be so prominent in a literary fiction tale. Unless, of course, we are talking about something by Beatrix Potter. But he is front and center. Veblen has always talked to squirrels. Paul doesn’t want the squirrel in the attic but Veblen doesn’t want him gone. She converses with him and in her mind, he converses back. Maybe he really does.

If you like quirky characters, this book is for you with a capital Q! I loved it! Veblen is totally different from most characters. She’s a bit odd, maybe more than a bit, but everyone around her is odd too. Even Paul and his family. Loving but odd. And odd was a very good thing in this book. This is one of those books that I saw on many lists as a must-read book and I go into those with a wariness but I was not disappointed in the least. I reveled in it’s weirdness. There is also a commentary on big pharmaceutical companies pushing drugs and medical devices on the world without a thought to who it effects. It’s always the bottom line.

There is a little added bit at the end and we see the squirrel’s side of the story. Loved that!

I happily received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Penguin Press in exchange for an honest review.

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