Review

Best Staged Plans

by Claire Cook

Claire Cook, the bestselling author of such novels as SEVEN YEAR SWITCH and THE WILDWATER WALKING CLUB, presents a fast, delightful read centered on the concept of home staging. "Eradicate. Eliminate. Streamline. Simplify." Sandy Sullivan is a professional home stager, whose purpose is to create an environment that appeals to the most home buyers possible. With the dual purposes of working toward retirement and stopping short of hoarding, Sandy begins staging her own home at the same time that she undertakes a project in Atlanta.

Claire Cook...presents a fast, delightful read centered on the concept of home staging.

Cook has a true gift for storytelling. Her dissertation on junk drawers is classic, including a list of items to trash: a troll head pencil with pink hair; a Buddha key chain holding a catnip mouse; three emergency rain ponchos; and a gold wedding ring from a client's husband's first marriage (the junk drawer was the least of this client's problems).

Reading glasses are very important to Sandy (and also to Cook, as readers are given information at the end of the book on to donate their reading glasses to the less fortunate and homeless individuals who need them). Sandy has a paint can full of reading glasses in her kitchen, but she only has one pair that is her very favorite. Cook's knack for storytelling comes into play again when Sandy has repeated visits to the local post office, a la "Seinfeld." There is one post office employee whom Sandra refers to as the federal employee from hell, "Ponytail Guy." He is the bane of her existence, and she almost always ends up in his lane. When she walks in one day and sees him sporting her favorite --- and newly missing --- reading glasses, all hell breaks loose.

When Sandy lands a job in Atlanta, the trip takes on a surreal quality from the start. After renting a car at the airport, she heads out with the help of her GPS. Her quips with the GPS are very funny, including her final one: "GPS is my new BFF." Additionally, she sees a zebra trotting down the highway. The circus was in town in more ways than one!

Her staging project in Atlanta is named the Chocolate Hotel. The hotel had been purchased by Sandy's best friend's boyfriend and needed to be completely renovated. "For a chocolate lover, there are four basic food groups: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate martinis. My design plan was to hit them all." There were many delicious-sounding paint colors, evoking wondrous experiences and tastes to come.

This is also a book about family and the stages they go through. Sandy and her husband, Gary, are sometimes working at cross purposes. Their son has a new girlfriend. Their daughter is temporarily staying with her dad and brother during a business trip, while her mom is staying with her boyfriend while on assignment in Atlanta. Empty nest syndrome --- or, as Sandy explains it, "postmom mission" --- presents staging opportunities for her life. "And there's an emotional cost to new beginnings, a scary kind of letting go and heading into the unknown that fights with the part of me that wants to believe that all the world can and should be staged." 

Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on June 13, 2011

Best Staged Plans
by Claire Cook

  • Publication Date: April 3, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Voice
  • ISBN-10: 1401341853
  • ISBN-13: 9781401341855