Heart-stopping prose and crackling observations on a spiritual journey toward a life rich in love and freedom.
Stuck in a dead-end relationship, this fearless narrator leaves her metaphorical baggage behind and finds a comfort zone in the air, “feeling safest with one plane ticket in her hand and another in her underwear drawer.” She flies around the world, finding reasons to love life in dozens of far-flung places from Alaska to Bhutan. Along the way she weathers unplanned losses of altitude, air pressure, and landing gear. With the help of a squad of loyal, funny, wise friends and massage therapists, she learns to sort truth from self-deception, self-involvement from self-possession.
At last, having found a new partner “who loves Don DeLillo and the NHL” and a daughter “who needs you to teach her to dive and to laugh at herself”—not to mention two dogs and two horses—“staying home becomes more of an option. Maybe.”
Recent Reviews and Interviews
REVIEW: ‘Contents’ May Have Shifted’ by Pam Houston (review by author Rebecca Barry – San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate.com)
REVIEW: Book Review on NPR’s All Things Considered (by Alan Cheuse)
REVIEW: A fearless woman’s whirlwind voyage of self-discovery (special to the Oregonian)
INTERVIEW: KPOV Radio (audio MP3)
Check out this advanced Review of Contents from Booklist:
Issue: December 15, 2011
Contents May Have Shifted.
Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof
Houston, Pam (Author) Feb 2012. 320 p. Norton, hardcover, $25.95. (9780393082654).
Houston’s latest novel finds Pam, the intrepid narrator, shuttling the world over, from Alaska to Tunisia, from Bhutan to Newfoundland, searching for authenticity, drinking up life, and maybe, just maybe, fleeing from a little conflict. As Pam first wrestles with a stagnant relationship, then enters a more promising (but arguably not easier) one, she philosophizes with girlfriends, mystics, and old lovers on all of life’s usual questions in a refreshingly witty and bold manner. The novel’s nonlinear plot builds meaning associatively through 144 minisections, each set in a new global location, enchanting the reader with unexplained characters and backstory. While a less-skilled writer would falter with this disjointed technique, in controlled, elegant prose, Houston imbues each pithy chapter with unifying lyricism. As the flight attendant says after a plane experiencing fuel-system failure successfully lands, “If your contents haven’t shifted, you must be carrying lead weights.” Unapologetic and empowering, Houston’s book hammers home the idea that if you don’t have problems, you probably aren’t living. Or, to use her metaphor, we all have baggage, so we might as well get used to traveling with it.
— Katharine Fronk