Agatha Arch Is Afraid of Everything

Agatha Arch Is Afraid of Everything

A Novel

Book - 2020 | First edition.
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A quirky, nervous wreck of a New England mom is forced to face her many fears in this touching, irresistible novel from author Kristin Bair O'Keeffe.

A quirky, nervous wreck of a New England mom is forced to face her many fears in this touching, irresistible novel from author Kristin Bair.

Agatha Arch's life shatters when she discovers her husband in their backyard shed, in flagrante delicto, giving the local dog walker some heavy petting. Suddenly, Agatha finds herself face to face with everything that frightens her...and that's a loooooong list.

Agatha keeps those she loves close. Everyone else, she keeps as far away as possible. So she's a mystery to nearly everyone in her New England town. To her husband, she's a saucy, no-B.S. writer. To her Facebook Moms group, she's a provocateur. To her neighbor, she's a standoffish pain in the butt. To her sons, she's chocolate pudding with marshmallows. And to her shrink, she's a bundle of nerves on the brink of a cataclysmic implosion.

Defying her abundant assortment of anxieties, Agatha dons her "spy pants"--a pair of khakis whose many pockets she crams with binoculars, fishing line, scissors, flashlight, a Leatherman Super Tool 300 EOD, candy, and other espionage essentials--and sets out to spy on her husband and the dog walker. Along the way, she finds another intriguing target to follow- a mysterious young woman who's panhandling on the busiest street in town.

It's all a bit much for timorous Agatha. But with the help of her Bear Grylls bobblehead, a trio of goats, and a dog named Balderdash, Agatha may just find the courage to build a better life.

"Fans of Where'd You Go, Bernadette and Elinor Oliphant Is Completely Fine will love this clever romp."
-- Publishers Weekly , starred review
Publisher: New York, NY : Alcove Press, 2020.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781643855004
164385500X
Branch Call Number: FIC Bair
Characteristics: 346 pages ; 21 cm

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newdog
Mar 05, 2021

I loved, loved, loved this quirky novel!!! Agatha is a mess; she's literally afraid of everything. Agatha has always struggled with her fears and her severe lack of social skills, and now mix them in with debilitating anger after catching her husband "in the act" with a dog walker, and Agatha begins to crumble. The author wrote this story of the journey of recognizing, acknowledging, and accepting one's character flaws as she deals with her pain in such a remarkable way that it made me laugh so hard, and I stayed up way too late reading, because I didn't want to stop.
If you enjoyed, "Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Elinor Oliphant Is Fine", this is the next book for you. (However, if you read and didn't like them, you most likely won't enjoy this book, either.)

IndyPL_CarriG Feb 26, 2021

Agatha Arch is afraid of a whole lot of things - but especially being vulnerable. She is a refreshingly mean-spirited character in a genre that's often stuffed with people who are kind, have the best of intentions, and are good at everything and loved by all. Her fear makes her seem almost fearless; when her husband's affair is revealed in devastating and humiliating fashion her fear keeps her from reaching out to friends and propels her to more and more reckless behavior. Honestly though, in a more funny way than in a crazy way, at least in fiction. Her obsession with and disdain for the mom's Facebook group she's a part of, her passion for Bear Grylls, and her fear of beans are especially amusing. All in all, a little bit of character growth for Agatha and a whole lot of funny for me. Don't read this if you don't like awkward and rude narrators; Agatha is no Eleanor Oliphant, but she was very likely inspired by her. While this book does not have the depth of Eleanor Oliphant it does have the humanity. A fun and fast read.

slawr084 Nov 16, 2020

I think I’m the wrong audience for this book.

I went into it expecting a “light read”—the cover and title suggested a cutesy, light-hearted novel about a fearful person who eventually comes out of her shell, or some such thing. I expected at least a light tone to compliment the silly antics Agatha gets up to. Instead, the whole thing starts out depressingly abysmal and maintains that feeling for far too long. It isn’t until the very end of the story that she begins to remind me of a cranky Bridget Jones, and by then it feels like too little, too late.

Agatha comes across as an unsympathetic, unrelatable caricature of a NIMBY-ist “Karen”. She feels entitled, has no friends, alienates anyone who tries to get close to her, and her online moms group barely tolerates her. She even has a difficult relationship with the teddy bear in which she confides (no joke). She is a WASP who actively trolls the other WASPs in her world. She refers to most people in her life by debasing nicknames she created, such as The Interloper and Shrinky-dink, rather than their actual names—evidence of yet another way that she deliberately keeps people at a distance.

At times, the text suggests that she is so vengeful and vindictive because her husband cheated on her with (and left her for) the dog-walker—a send-up of the “jilted ex” trope, no doubt—but at other moments it is very clear that she has long been cynical, abrasive, and hostile to everyone around her. The only people she does not seem to alienate are her own kids, and there are moments when even this is no longer a certainty. All of this, in addition to her single-minded self-absorption, makes it hard for the reader (well, for ME, at least) to feel invested in her character.

I’m not trying to say the book is objectively bad, as there is certainly the right audience for it out there. Perhaps the book is supposed to feel like a vicarious revenge fantasy for jilted spouses. I mean, all of this caricaturing has to be deliberate and self-aware, right? Perhaps we’re supposed to wonder whether Agatha is the way she is as a defense mechanism resulting from her multiple irrational fears. Perhaps Agatha is drawn this way to deliberately evoke zero sympathy, although I can’t imagine why this would be the desired effect. I've tried to keep an open mind, but I almost stopped listening altogether when the tired, racist trope of bored-housewife-seduces-“exotic”-black-handyman was introduced.

Finally, I’m sooooo not into the way much of this book’s interactions take place in an electronic/online environment. I’m technically a millennial so I probably shouldn’t mind this, but I find that style so jarring and not at all engaging.

I suppose I should say some nice things, too. I finished the book, so I guess that’s something. Also, I’m amused by Agatha's made-up cuss words. As a character, Agatha started to become interesting to me when I noticed how dissonant her intense fear of so many ordinary, everyday things seemed in contrast to the nonsensical, dangerous, and illegal things she was so driven to do. I was so busy hating her that it took me a while to pick up on this. I also appreciated the few moments when she became almost-vulnerable by tentatively showing legitimate interest in others, thereby approaching the making of real human connections. There, that was 4 nice things.

So yeah, I am the wrong audience for this book.

d
darladoodles
Nov 04, 2020

Agatha Arch, Agatha Arch, Agatha Arch! Your book was somewhat amusing, but the posts from the FB Mom's group got to be a bit monotonous and all those rants about the "interloper" -- same. Tap, tap, tippity tap. . . So glad you spared that woodpecker, by the way. There were some good bits about being a good friend. Loved the Bear Grylls bobblehead and Agatha's spy pants. And the goat yoga was a fun addition. Unfortunately, although there is a vague resemblance to 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette,' there just weren't enough moving parts to even compare. Finally, I feel a strong nudging to go read 'Their Eyes Were Watching God.' Why is that?

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