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Bring Your Baggage and Don't Pack Light: Essays

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The bestselling author of American Housewife and Southern Lady Code returns with a viciously funny, deeply felt collection of essays on friendship among grown-ass women. When Helen Ellis and her lifelong friends arrive for a reunion on the Redneck Riviera they unpack more than their suitcases: stories of husbands and kids, lost parents and lost jobs powdered onion dip and p The bestselling author of American Housewife and Southern Lady Code returns with a viciously funny, deeply felt collection of essays on friendship among grown-ass women. When Helen Ellis and her lifelong friends arrive for a reunion on the Redneck Riviera they unpack more than their suitcases: stories of husbands and kids, lost parents and lost jobs powdered onion dip and photographs you have to hold by the edges; dirty jokes and sunscreen with SPF higher than they hair-sprayed their bangs senior year, and a bad mammogram. It's a diagnosis that scares them, but could never break their bond. Because women pushing fifty won't be pushed around. In these twelve gloriously comic and moving essays, Helen Ellis dishes on married middle-age sex, sobs with a theater full of women as a psychic exorcises their sorrows, gets twenty shots of stomach bile to the neck to get rid of her double chin, and gathers up the courage to ask, Are you there, Menopause? It's Me, Helen. A book that reads like the best cocktail party of your life, Bring Your Baggage and Don't Pack Light is chockablock with fabulous characters: cat-lady plastic surgeons and waterpark Adonises, bridge ladies and poker players; platinum medallion fliers and Garage Sale Swindlers; forty-year-old divorc�es, fifty-year-old new moms and still-young octogenarians. Alive with the sensational humor and ferocious love for her friends that won Helen Ellis legions of fans, this book has a raw vulnerability and an emotional generosity that takes this acclaimed author to a whole new level of accomplishment.


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The bestselling author of American Housewife and Southern Lady Code returns with a viciously funny, deeply felt collection of essays on friendship among grown-ass women. When Helen Ellis and her lifelong friends arrive for a reunion on the Redneck Riviera they unpack more than their suitcases: stories of husbands and kids, lost parents and lost jobs powdered onion dip and p The bestselling author of American Housewife and Southern Lady Code returns with a viciously funny, deeply felt collection of essays on friendship among grown-ass women. When Helen Ellis and her lifelong friends arrive for a reunion on the Redneck Riviera they unpack more than their suitcases: stories of husbands and kids, lost parents and lost jobs powdered onion dip and photographs you have to hold by the edges; dirty jokes and sunscreen with SPF higher than they hair-sprayed their bangs senior year, and a bad mammogram. It's a diagnosis that scares them, but could never break their bond. Because women pushing fifty won't be pushed around. In these twelve gloriously comic and moving essays, Helen Ellis dishes on married middle-age sex, sobs with a theater full of women as a psychic exorcises their sorrows, gets twenty shots of stomach bile to the neck to get rid of her double chin, and gathers up the courage to ask, Are you there, Menopause? It's Me, Helen. A book that reads like the best cocktail party of your life, Bring Your Baggage and Don't Pack Light is chockablock with fabulous characters: cat-lady plastic surgeons and waterpark Adonises, bridge ladies and poker players; platinum medallion fliers and Garage Sale Swindlers; forty-year-old divorc�es, fifty-year-old new moms and still-young octogenarians. Alive with the sensational humor and ferocious love for her friends that won Helen Ellis legions of fans, this book has a raw vulnerability and an emotional generosity that takes this acclaimed author to a whole new level of accomplishment.

30 review for Bring Your Baggage and Don't Pack Light: Essays

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sharnell Johnson

    I will read anything this Helen Ellis writes! This is another hilarious book about Helen’s experiences with getting older, playing poker, and more. I laughed at least once a page. It was a quick read that didn’t lack anything. I’m looking forward to her next one!

  2. 5 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    The thoughtful way Ellis writes about her lifelong friends is precisely the way I feel about mine. The love runs hella deep. My girls and I even have “Redneck Riviera” stories. 🤐 This collection is exactly what I hoped for - and needed. Hilarious, scary, honest, and 100% relatable. Phenomenal storytelling and audio narration. Ellis’s southern lilt adds another dimension. I just wanted it to be twice long! Definitely one to revisit.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lormac

    Man, I should have loved this book, and I just didn't. A bright, sharp, middle-aged lady who does not care a fig about conventions writing about her friends and family and their misadventures and lives should be just up my alley. But this book grated on me. Helen is just too too-much that it seems like she is working way too hard to be a Card-Carrying Eccentrick (yes, so eccentric that she would spell it with a 'k' just to be too too-much). God bless her heart, but I will be over here in the cor Man, I should have loved this book, and I just didn't. A bright, sharp, middle-aged lady who does not care a fig about conventions writing about her friends and family and their misadventures and lives should be just up my alley. But this book grated on me. Helen is just too too-much that it seems like she is working way too hard to be a Card-Carrying Eccentrick (yes, so eccentric that she would spell it with a 'k' just to be too too-much). God bless her heart, but I will be over here in the corner with the quieter kooks.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    This collection is a series of essays sometimes dealing with more serious topics. The author finds a way to bring humor to every situation. It is rare for me to enjoy every essay in a collection but that is the case here. I just wish the author was a little less crude in her humor on occasion.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    Quirky Funny Relatable This was an incredibly enjoyable read. I loved it for the raw and ruthlessly honest stories of vulnerability, friendships and the sometimes not so great mid-life. For a snarky and sassy read in short essays, this was adorbs!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    This collection of candid and humorous essays were just what I needed right now. More thorough review to come. This is going on my "best of 2021" shelf. Thanks to the publisher for the advance digital reading galley. This collection of candid and humorous essays were just what I needed right now. More thorough review to come. This is going on my "best of 2021" shelf. Thanks to the publisher for the advance digital reading galley.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Erin A. Craig

    Full of the razor sharp wit Helen Ellis is known for, BAGGAGE was a gem of a read, each essay a different sparkling facet and set in gold. Always relatable, always charming, I devoured this collection!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    3.5 stars Helen Ellis has a surprising sense of humor that will make most Southern ladies clutch their pearls. I adored her short story collection American Housewife and was charmed by her essay collection Southern Lady Code. Now she returns with more essays in Bring Your Baggage and Don't Pack Light. This time around she mostly muses on aging as she nears 50. It had a Nora Ephron vibe, which made sense when I saw the title of the last essay: I Feel Better About My Neck. This is a super short coll 3.5 stars Helen Ellis has a surprising sense of humor that will make most Southern ladies clutch their pearls. I adored her short story collection American Housewife and was charmed by her essay collection Southern Lady Code. Now she returns with more essays in Bring Your Baggage and Don't Pack Light. This time around she mostly muses on aging as she nears 50. It had a Nora Ephron vibe, which made sense when I saw the title of the last essay: I Feel Better About My Neck. This is a super short collection, really an afternoon cover-to-cover read, but each is entertaining with her trademark sense of humor. It didn't pack the punch of her previous books for me but I still enjoyed sitting down with it for the hour or so it took to read. My favorites here were The Last Garage Sale, a nostalgic look at her parent's shedding years of collected stuff in their final move; and I'm a Believer!, a highly quotable list I'd call her guide to life. "I believe the older the friend, the longer the lunch. I believe the better the friend, the messier my house can be when she visits." * "I believe in buying the next size up because I was not put on this earth to fit into and contain and restrain the largeness of my life." * "I believe in hole-punching seven-year-old tax returns to make confetti." * I recommend this book to readers who appreciate humorous essays. Thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Bring Your Baggage and Don't Pack Light is scheduled for release on July 13, 2021. *Quotes included are from an advanced reader's copy and are subject to change upon final publication. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  9. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    I was in the mood for humor, and humor was delivered. Helen Ellis writes essays about her friendships with others, about what it's like to be nearing fifty, and about her place in the world. I read this book in less than two hours, straight through. Now I see others saying this wasn't her best book. I might need to look for more Helen Ellis. I was in the mood for humor, and humor was delivered. Helen Ellis writes essays about her friendships with others, about what it's like to be nearing fifty, and about her place in the world. I read this book in less than two hours, straight through. Now I see others saying this wasn't her best book. I might need to look for more Helen Ellis.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris Conley

    Not my usual genre but these essays are spot on!!! I laughed and cried.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cindy H.

    Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for gifting me with an ARC of Helen Ellis’s new essay collection. In exchange I offer my unbiased review. Helen Ellis is “my kind of people.” Hilariously funny, sharp, honest and able to recognize the humor in everything. She’s your number one backup plan, and makes you feel good about your lumps and bumps. This collection of essays was absolutely fantastic! Each one was 100% relatable. I enjoyed every essay and laughed out loud numerous times. I admit, Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for gifting me with an ARC of Helen Ellis’s new essay collection. In exchange I offer my unbiased review. Helen Ellis is “my kind of people.” Hilariously funny, sharp, honest and able to recognize the humor in everything. She’s your number one backup plan, and makes you feel good about your lumps and bumps. This collection of essays was absolutely fantastic! Each one was 100% relatable. I enjoyed every essay and laughed out loud numerous times. I admit, I shed a few tears during her essay about her friend group titled “Grown-Ass Ladies Gone Mild.” Helen reminds me of David Sedaris and Jenny Lawson and I can’t think of a better compliment than that. Although I read this book in digital form, I’ve already pre-ordered the audiobook, as I can only imagine how brilliant it’s going to be hearing this read by Helen Ellis.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Another wonderful, funny book from Helen Ellis. So glad I started reading her books. I could have read this in a day if I wasn't working. So funny and relatable, if you are a woman of a certain age. I will definitely be recommending it. Another wonderful, funny book from Helen Ellis. So glad I started reading her books. I could have read this in a day if I wasn't working. So funny and relatable, if you are a woman of a certain age. I will definitely be recommending it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    Helen Ellis is a national treasure and it kills me that she is not on every bestseller list. She's hilarious, and this book is no exception. Helen Ellis is a national treasure and it kills me that she is not on every bestseller list. She's hilarious, and this book is no exception.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lesa

    Sometimes, a collection of essays is just what I need. I’ll admit Helen Ellis and I would probably never be friends because she’s definitely an outrageous character at times, but the opening essay of Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light shows what a good friend she is. This is a collection meant for women who will nod and think, “Been there. Understand that.” In that opening essay, “Grown-Ass Ladies Gone Wild”, Helen Ellis and four friends meet up at Panama City Beach, “The Redneck Riviera”. T Sometimes, a collection of essays is just what I need. I’ll admit Helen Ellis and I would probably never be friends because she’s definitely an outrageous character at times, but the opening essay of Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light shows what a good friend she is. This is a collection meant for women who will nod and think, “Been there. Understand that.” In that opening essay, “Grown-Ass Ladies Gone Wild”, Helen Ellis and four friends meet up at Panama City Beach, “The Redneck Riviera”. They’re all from the South, childhood friends now in their fifites who haven’t been all together for ten years. And, they all bring their lives with them, their problems, their health issues, just the issues of living fifty years. There’s the survivor of spousal abuse, the caregiver, the one who is religious, the feminist, and Helen, the funny one. They’re there for each other, and they can have a grownup fun night out despite cancer worries and concerns about college-age children. This was my favorite essay because it’s about friends. “We don’t judge each other’s baggage, and we don’t pack light.” There are much lighter chapters in the book, though. I love that Ellis is in a “Classic Trashy Book Club”. Do you remember Shirley Conran’s Lace, Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls, Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins, or Judith Krantz’s Scruples? (Here’s a secret I’ll reveal. My husband seldom read female writers, but he read everything by Jackie Collins.) Ellis talks about the family’s last garage sale, and reveals that she and her sister learned to haggle from their father. She also learned to play poker from him, and she plays the World Series of Poker. Only 4% of poker players are women. Her essay, “There’s a Lady at the Poker Table”, is fascinating. Many of Ellis’ essays are interesting because she lives a life so different from most of us. On the other hand, the acknowledgments brings us right back to reality because she writes about everything she misses about being stuck at home during COVID last year. Really? The best reason to read Helen Ellis’ Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light is to feel as if you’re staying up late, gossiping with a girlfriend

  15. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    NPR review https://www.npr.org/2021/07/12/101510... Excerpt: "Ellis is a hoot. She's also a force. What she isn't, she explains, is a character — which is Southern Lady Code for a "woman who's funny because she's tipsier than a Gibson's pickled pear onion." Nor, as her Mama reminds her, is her humor for everyone. But she doesn't care. She has come to own the power of her personality — and her work. "There's a saying at the poker table," she writes: "If you can't figure out who the worst player is i NPR review https://www.npr.org/2021/07/12/101510... Excerpt: "Ellis is a hoot. She's also a force. What she isn't, she explains, is a character — which is Southern Lady Code for a "woman who's funny because she's tipsier than a Gibson's pickled pear onion." Nor, as her Mama reminds her, is her humor for everyone. But she doesn't care. She has come to own the power of her personality — and her work. "There's a saying at the poker table," she writes: "If you can't figure out who the worst player is in the first thirty minutes, it's you." She adds, "It's never me. Don't let the pearls or patchouli fool you." Maybe??

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mayar El Mahdy

    2.5/5 This is a perfectly okay book. It's fun at times but the overall impact of it wasn't great. I loved American Housewife. I read this hoping it would be similar, it wasn't. It's a collection of essays about the author's life. Some are fun, some aren't. It's good. Not great, but good. 2.5/5 This is a perfectly okay book. It's fun at times but the overall impact of it wasn't great. I loved American Housewife. I read this hoping it would be similar, it wasn't. It's a collection of essays about the author's life. Some are fun, some aren't. It's good. Not great, but good.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rhiannon Johnson

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I read this essay collection in a single evening and while I did laugh out loud a few times, they just didn't crack me up in the way that Ellis' previous essays have done. Overall this collection was enjoyable, but not rave worthy. Come chat with me about books here, too: Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I read this essay collection in a single evening and while I did laugh out loud a few times, they just didn't crack me up in the way that Ellis' previous essays have done. Overall this collection was enjoyable, but not rave worthy. Come chat with me about books here, too: Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest

  18. 5 out of 5

    Denise Campbell

    I am serious when I say, I think one of my grown-ass lady gang members must have written this! I see each one of us in the stories that were told. If it isn't, then she should be! I could relate to everything in pages of this quick and delightful read. I am serious when I say, I think one of my grown-ass lady gang members must have written this! I see each one of us in the stories that were told. If it isn't, then she should be! I could relate to everything in pages of this quick and delightful read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Erika Strehl

    If Helen Ellis typed her grocery lists I would read those too

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Adams

    This was a fun and fast read!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    Buy it, borrow it, read it. I love Helen Ellis’ writing. It’s funny. It puts me in a good mood. The essays are short and I think I read the whole book in 3 hours.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Annissa Joy Armstrong

    I listened to this one and it was hilarious!!! The author narrates hey pen book and that made it even more special!!! Honest stories and her and her friends!! Way too many laughs!! Highly recommend!!!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marci

    If you are a women in your mid forties read this but don’t plan to get anything else done that day. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. I also want to start a trashy classic romance novel book club, it sounds like my kind of book club. Anyone want to join me?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Basic B's Guide

    Helen Ellis is your poker playing, no bullshit and unfiltered backup plan bestie. This collection of essays made me think about growing older and having a good laugh about it. I especially loved the opening chapter “Grown-Ass Ladies Gone Mild”. As sassy as always, fans of the author and anyone approaching middle-age will especially enjoy this one. Thank you Doubleday for the gifted arc.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erika

    Thank you to Libro.fm and the publisher for an audio ARC of this title. Honestly, the cover caught my eye. I started listening today and listened straight through. This book is a series of essays for “women of a certain age” and apparently I am of that age, because I was cracking up. I listened with headphones while walking through my town. I must have looked crazy laughing to myself. This book was a lovely break to revel in someone else’s (hilarious) reality for a while. It’s a quick read and w Thank you to Libro.fm and the publisher for an audio ARC of this title. Honestly, the cover caught my eye. I started listening today and listened straight through. This book is a series of essays for “women of a certain age” and apparently I am of that age, because I was cracking up. I listened with headphones while walking through my town. I must have looked crazy laughing to myself. This book was a lovely break to revel in someone else’s (hilarious) reality for a while. It’s a quick read and well worth the time. If you do listen to the audio, the author narrates it and she is delightful.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lauriem

    I am completely biased because Helen has been a dear friend since elementary school (and yes, YOU DO want her as a friend, it is a true privilege). But I must say, I laughed so hard throughout these essays - utterly brilliant storytelling. Cannot recommend "Bring Your Baggage" enough. "Are You There Menopause? It's Me, Helen" is so spot on. She's written a Menopause Manifesto, I tell you. A perfect collection from one of the funniest essayists of our times. I am completely biased because Helen has been a dear friend since elementary school (and yes, YOU DO want her as a friend, it is a true privilege). But I must say, I laughed so hard throughout these essays - utterly brilliant storytelling. Cannot recommend "Bring Your Baggage" enough. "Are You There Menopause? It's Me, Helen" is so spot on. She's written a Menopause Manifesto, I tell you. A perfect collection from one of the funniest essayists of our times.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I won a Goodreads giveaway copy of Bring your Baggage & Don’t Pack Light. Thankfully it arrived on my way out the door for a week by the ocean & was the perfect beach read! It’s also funny enough that I didn’t mind cackling by myself in front of a bunch of strangers.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I enjoy humor in my reading, but I don’t tend to laugh out loud. This book made me chuckle and giggle. Maybe it’s just the right book for me right now, but it was a great, albeit short experience.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Rodgers Daniels

    This was exactly what I needed. Helen never fails to deliver. The lady IRL and her writing are incredibly ENJOYABLE!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jan Thullen

    Funny, clever, and occasionally cringe for me. Love a good book of funny essays. Beach bag ready, this one. “I wore all black because I myself am a pop of color.” 🙂

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