"If your life is a mess, your house could probably use a makeover, too." That is the premise of "The Kitchen Shrink," a new reality show that Dee DeTarsio created in her novel of the same title.
"The Kitchen Shrink" follows Lisby Shaw's first experience with reality television. Lisby is a recently divorced mother of two teenagers whose dating "mistake" led her friend Daria to sign her up for the show in the first place. Soon, a camera (and the attractive man behind one) is following her as she attempts to remodel her kitchen with a crew to assist her and an obnoxious designer with whom to spar. Lisby's entire life is on display as she learns more about herself, her family and friends through the course of filming the show. And she might not like what she sees when it airs...
I found "The Kitchen Shrink" to be a light and humorous story with a lot of heart at the core. I was easily drawn in by the easygoing banter and curious as to what would happen as each chapter unfolded. I liked how dynamic the characters were, especially Elgin, the designer. It was easy to visualize them, as well as the kitchen that was being remodeled and all other scenery. There were times when I definitely laughed out loud a bunch of times and nodded along with Lisby. She was easy to relate to personally, as I am a mom and a disorganized one at that. (Of course, I would probably run for cover if people were to film my home for national television!) She and I also need fashion consultants as our wardrobes haven't been updated in a while. I love how Lisby stands up for what she wants and empowers herself. Her inner monologues were interesting and I feel that a lot of women have been in her shoes (even the ones she manages to ruin, but that's all I'll say for now). The sexual tension between Lisby and Sam, the cameraman, is delicious. I liked the premise of this novel, as well. Reality television is so prevalent these days and takes over so much air time. It was fun to see a satirical look at it from the perspective of a participant, even a fictional one at that.
While it was an enjoyable story, there were some things that could have been improved upon in order for it to stand out even more. The first is to correct spelling and grammar errors. I found many throughout the story. The next step is to polish up the dialogue and sentence structures. Sometimes, I felt like I was missing out on some sort of inside joke between Ms. DeTarsio and her characters. Like I should have read another book that was never even written. There was one time when Lisby knew someone's name without having been introduced to them or having it mentioned earlier in the chapter. Even if it was mentioned earlier in the book, it was not memorable enough to feel like Lisby should know this person's name without being told.
Finally, the conflicts seemed pretty light and easily resolvable. Sure, they weren't fun for Lisby to deal with, but I kept thinking that they were treated as such average conflicts compared with how they should be treated. There's a serious issue in the middle of the story and it not only gets resolved within the chapter, but it's only quickly alluded to and brushed off afterward. I would have been panicking for weeks if I had been in Lisby's shoes during this situation. However, she wasn't even able to evoke a tear from me during that time. I was more sympathetic toward her about a different (but not earth-shattering, according to her attitude) plight that was only mildly resolved by the end.
Overall, this story had a Sunday night television feel, as it was a cross between "Extreme Makeover" and "Desperate Housewives." (I could even picture Teri Hatcher playing Lisby.) It was perfect for a light summer read and I looked forward to getting back to it whenever I had a chance to read it on my Kindle for PC. I'm sure if I had it on paperback, I would have breezed through it in a few sittings. It definitely inspired me to clean and organize my house, even though I have yet to do so.
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