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Book Review: The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs by Cristina Hopkinson

The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs by Christina Hopkinson

The premise of this book is a lot of fun – an increasingly angry wife with two small children decides to make a star chart for her laid-back and untidy husband. He gets a black mark for every time he puts used tea bags in the sink, leaves swimming gear to go mouldy in a bag or doesn’t empty the dishwasher but just adds dirty plates to the clean ones already there, etc. Unfortunately, what starts as an idea for a simple star chart turns into a complicated excel spreadsheet that Mary obsesses over for the next six months – and Joel doesn’t know he is being constantly evaluated. So what is a fun idea actually becomes a little disturbing as Mary effectively lists everything she now hates about her husband. The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs turns into a deeper and more thorough exploration of a marriage that has lost its way than other books of this genre, at the same time as examining the issues of juggling motherhood with work and the possible inequality of who does the housework in these scenarios. And interestingly it is Joel who ends up being the most likeable character, despite his untidy nature – as Mary becomes quietly angrier and unpleasant as she tots up his daily failures. I thoroughly enjoyed the main story, and was almost biting my fingernails by the end to see if the marriage would survive. But just be aware that there are a couple of side plots with content that may put some people off. One of Mary’s friends, Mitzi, has married a rich husband, but his sexual preferences are decidedly unusual. And her best friend Becky is in a relationship with another woman, Cara, who we discover likes to try to seduce married straight women. But that aside, I’d recommend this novel for the main story which is by turns amusing and thought-provoking.

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