A young Minneapolis woman tries to pull her life together between visits to the Target supermarket and her therapist, The Counselor. A first novel. 75,000 first printing.
In Welcome to My Planet, the fictional Shannon Olson--who shares her creator's name--is witty but confused, whip-smart but unable to fully release her ties to bad boyfriends, childhood obsessions, and the "gassy expanse" of marginal jobs. With the help of a therapist known only as the counselor, this almost 30-year-old Midwestern neurotic gamely tries to steer her way past credit-card-fueled Target binges and a too close relationship with her mother, Flo, and to slowly inch toward the elusive land of adulthood. Comparisons to the charming neurotics found in Bridget Jones's Diary and The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing are inevitable, but beside the point: Shannon is less brittle, less self-consciously hip than those postmodern heroines. Contemplating living on her own again after a stint with her parents, she whines to the counselor, "I've never really lived anywhere else. What if I never find anyone? I may as well go out and adopt a bunch of cats and start wearing macramé ponchos."
Olson's debut easily pulls us in with a conversational, seemingly unadorned style that camouflages her well-crafted narrative technique as she moves back and forth in time. With her retro and up-to-the-minute pop-culture references to The Love Boat, grieving conferences, Prozac, Oprah, bachelorette parties, and the ravages of graduate school (where Babe the Gallant Pig is a "text"), the author clearly knows her target audience. Welcome to My Planet is an almost perfect coming-of-age story for an era in which public life, jazzed by lightning technological and commercial changes, leapfrogs away while emotional adolescence strangely extends into our 30s. --Maura Alia Bramkamp
From Publishers Weekly
The protagonist of this excellent debut novel has much in common with its author: they share the same name, they're both in their early 30s, live in Minnesota and have a mother named Flo. In funny, self-conscious prose, Olson chronicles her heroine's life between ages 25 and 30. Shannon goes to therapy, frets about her credit card debt and her boyfriend Michael's obsessive need to organize his time, slogs away at an unsatisfying job at a software company and eventually decides to move back into her parents' home. The neurotic middle child between her (married) brother and her (married) sister, Shannon chats endearingly and self-deprecatingly about her anxieties and her complicated relationship with Flo. Having grown up watching Love Boat on TV, Shannon admits she's absorbed the fantasy of old-fashioned, tidy love: "All my life, for as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be married. I'm not sure why. I guess I just thought that that's when my life would start." But Shannon never quite faces her feelings. She's more likely to produce a witty pun than tell her mother she loves her. Even when Flo is hospitalized for surgery, Shannon copes with the crisis with humor, a strategy she's learned from her wisecracking mom. Getting older, feeling aimless, Shannon enrolls in grad school, cuts her hours at work and moves in with Michael. When their affair hits troubled waters, she finally turns to Flo for advice and learns that Flo views her own marriage as a failure. Olson's premise is hardly original in a market flooded with sassy young women's fiction, but she has a realistic voice readers can relate to, and, unlike others in the genre, she isn't trying to be edgy and hip. The book meanders but is honest and compelling; the ordinary woman's search for self is grounded sturdily in the resilient, charming mother/daughter relationship at the novel's heart. Agent, Gloria Loomis. 10-city author tour. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Think Bridget Jones's Diary and Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing all rolled into one. In Olson's debut, 31-year-old Shannon (any resemblance to the author?) can't cope and heads home to Mom.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Minnesota-bred Olson debuts with a blistering lampoon of Gen-X angst. Not only does heroine Shannon Olson have the same name as the author, but their mothers are both named Flo. Shannon, 31, who's been in therapy for five years, has a mind-numbing job testing software for an upstart computer company in the Minneapolis suburbs--given her habit of coming in late and taking long lunches she can't understand why the boss doesn't fire her--and she's tired of her oversexed, often-unemployed, video gameplaying boyfriend. She's so tired of him, in fact, that she never refers to him by name but simply as my boyfriend. Everybody on Love Boat found someone, she whines to her acerbic and impatient therapist, so why can't she? Eventually, Shannon trades in her boring job for a university assistantship and her slacker boyfriend for a ruggedly handsome Italian studying architecture. This new boyfriend--he's got a name, Michael--ambitious and attentive, is a big improvement over the old one--but, alas, Shannon quickly develops the same ambivalence toward him. The one thing Shannon can't trade in is her mother. She loathes her mother's small-town, doctor's-wife life, yet she envies her ability to make lemonade from the many lemons tossed her way. You have to make her seem small and ridiculous in order to feel good about yourself, her therapist scolds. But try as she might, Shannon simply can't buck her clinical depression. She wonders, in fact, whether depression may not be the correct biological response to living in America. Only when her mother develops a tumor does she come close to taking responsibility for her inner demons.Shannon never does have the life-altering experience or emotional epiphany you'd like, and the dialogue often resembles sitcom banter. Still, Olson has scored a direct hit on her generation's inability to quit the bellyaching and get on with it.Author tour -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
"A wonderfully funny and elegant and compelling book about love and confusion in Minneapolis, and what knocks me over is the plain nakedness and integrity of it: all the way through, the author sounds exactly like herself and nobody else, and you start to think of her as your daughter. There are some good digs at psychotherapy, American guydom, and Lutherans. And it has Flo, who is one of the great moms of American fiction." -- Garrison Keillor
"Shannon Olson has written a remarkably brave book, full of grief and laughter, portraying a young woman's search for her own story so entangled with family and the vast landscape of American culture. Her many tales are a confrontation with memory, longing and a harsh, though often hilarious, reality. Olson has written a Scheherazade of a novel that reveals the many dodges and delaying tactics of narrative which will move and entertain her readers. Welcome To My Planet is a plea for life." -- Maureen Howard, author of A Lover's Almanac
"This is one of the most hilarious and moving mother-daughter acts of all time. I stopped reading it only to laugh my head off, quote passages to my friends, and to make it last." -- Melissa Bank, author of The Girls' Guide To Hunting And Fishing
...she does a singular job of portraying the terror of never knowing what to ask from life. -- The New York Times Book Review, Cynthia Joyce
Part wacky comedy, part chaotic examination of the narrator's inner life. Reading Welcome To My Planet is like tumbling headfirst into a series of intimate revelations -- each more truthful, comic, and irreverent than the one before. -- Julie Schumacher, author of The Body is Water
Shannon's comical quest is also a classic pilgrimage. -- Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 28, 2000
About the Author
Shannon Olson, author of Welcome to My Planet, has taught creative writing and literature at the University of Minnesota.
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