Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

{May 30, 2011}   The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness, by Brianna Karp

From Goodreads: Brianna Karp entered the workforce at age ten, supporting her mother and sister throughout her teen years in Southern California. Although her young life was scarred by violence and abuse, Karp stayed focused on her dream of a steady job and a home of her own. By age twenty-two her dream became reality. Karp loved her job as an executive assistant and signed the lease on a tiny cottage near the beach.

And then the Great Recession hit. Karp, like millions of others, lost her job. In the six months between the day she was laid off and the day she was forced out onto the street, Karp scrambled for temp work and filed hundreds of job applications, only to find all doors closed. When she inherited a thirty-foot travel trailer after her father’s suicide, Karp parked it in a Walmart parking lot and began to blog about her search for work and a way back.


Harlequin has been extremely gracious to allow me to read a copy of this novel, via Netgalley, and so I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t really pulled in by this memoir.  I think I expected something completely different from this novel.  As it’s titled The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness, I was expecting the novel to focus on Karp’s homelessness and how she coped, and though it technically did, I don’t feel like that was a main purpose of this novel.  The first thirty percent of the novel gives Karp’s background story, and while it’s interesting, I also felt like it was mainly written to bash her family and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I love the sarcasm, I do, and I don’t doubt that Karp has had a horrible life and dealt with may difficult situations, but this is a very pessimistic viewpoint of life and reality, and it’s a little more depressing than I’m used to.  I don’t necessarily enjoy reading a completely pessimistic viewpoint about all the negative in someone’s life.  I don’t know, because I’m not Karp, but I feel like with all the bad, there always has to be some sort of good, and focusing solely on the bad creates a morphed viewpoint of the world—it creates pessimists, and I don’t really enjoy reading negative memoirs, though I guess that is what most memoirs tend to be nowadays?

When Karp wrote about her experiences living in the parking lot at Walmart, I was really interested.  She offers great insights into the life of the homeless while also giving great tips.  Let’s face it, no one really plans to be homeless, but Karp’s situation could be any of us out there.  Losing one’s job is the tip of the iceberg, but what if you don’t have a family to go back to, and what if you don’t have any friends to put you up until you get back on your feet?  Karp argues her points on homelessness very well, and I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the story, and I wish more of the memoir dealt with this part of her life.

Karp spends most of the memoir either talking about her deranged mother and the abuse she endured, or explaining how she became a famous homeless person, using her blog as a way to meet other homeless people and make connections.  Her story mainly follows Matt, a Scottish blogger she falls in love with and becomes engaged to, even though they spend minimal time together, as he’s in Scotland most of the time.  While I found this section interesting, I was also concerned by the naivety that Karp seems to employ—if you are homeless, and your fiancé is not, why are you paying for everything when he comes to visit, including his plane ticket?  Yet, I do love Karp’s candid writing, where she lays it all out on the table, including her mistakes, and though I could easily spot the warning signs, I have to remember that when in a relationship, we tend to be blind to the truth.  However, the fact that Matt pays for nothing, among other warning signs, paled my respect for him, and the more I read, the more I felt like this novel was written as more of a slap in the face for Matt and Karp’s family than it was to explain her life as a homeless woman.  Of course, this is all perspective, and I know a lot of readers out there really enjoyed this book—I think going in with different expectations is what lowered my rating of this book, since I really thought it was going to focus on being homeless more than it really did.  Two stars.


holly minor says:

The book is controversial and I have enjoyed reading all the reviews. However, too me the author really was “homeless” since birth having never experienced a stable, loving environment; and yes, there are many definitions of homelessness. Having been raised in a JW home I can state Brianna was not bashing the religion. Her remarks were frank and truthful as far as how the religion works. Her mother’s mental illness isn’t about religion though. Brianna may have some damage to her psych because of all the trauma who wouldn’t?
The book held my interest.

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