Excerpt from The Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Quality of Life Report

by Meghan Daum

The Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum X
The Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2003, 309 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2004, 320 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Open Arms, Open Minds

For the sake of those involved, I will say only this: my moral, ethical, and, if not spiritual, let's say existential coming-of-age took place in a more or less rectangular-shaped state in the Midwest--closer to the West Coast than the east by maybe one hundred miles, closer to Canada than Mexico by maybe one hundred--in a town populated by approximately ninety thousand government employees, farmers, academics, insurance salesmen, assembly-line workers, antique dealers, real estate agents, rape crisis counselors, certified massage therapists, girls volleyball coaches, and a whole lot of other people who, as they would tell it, just wanted to live in a peaceful place where movies cost six dollars and the children's zoo was free, and where library fines, even if you kept the book for a year, even if you dropped the book in the bathtub and returned it looking like it had been rescued by search divers, were rarely known to exceed five dollars. The state, dogged neither by oppressive Pentecostal leanings nor a preponderance of Teva-shod rafting guide types, was neither in the Bible Belt nor the Rocky Mountains. It had few lakes, only a handful of rivers, and none of the kind of topography that might attract Japanese tourists or inspire bumper stickers of the this car climbed variety.

There was very little to climb on this terrain. It was flat and treeless and cliffless. Even so, Prairie City had made the most of itself. It housed a state college, a public television station, and an independent movie theater that had screened The Last Temptation of Christ when the commercial cinemas had dropped the film because of picketers, most of whom were a small but vocal group of Seventh-day Adventists and a few of whom were Lutherans looking for a diversion. Generally speaking, though, all points of view were welcome. For years, Prairie City's welcome sign had read a great place to live until, under an initiative to promote diversity, the city council voted to change the motto to open arms, open minds. It was a fitting kickoff to the other placards in town. For every billboard reminding passing drivers that during an abortion, something dies inside there was another encouraging HIV testing, pet spay and neutering, or two-dollar mai tais at the Thirteenth Street TGI Friday's, which, though not all citizens realized it, was a major hangout for the community's sizable gay and lesbian population. For seven years running, the town had ranked in the top twenty in U.S. News & World Report's Most Livable Cities. In addition to its low rate of violent crime, good public school system, and four meticulously maintained municipal pools, Prairie City had the good fortune to have been hit by only six tornadoes during the entire period of the Clinton administration, just three of which killed anybody, all in trailer parks.

In Prairie City, trailer parks rubbed right up against elementary schools, public playgrounds, and houses of worship. Train tracks crisscrossed the city like lattice work, leaving little room for right sides or wrong sides. At Effie's Tavern on Highway 36, assembly-line workers from the Firestone tire plant gathered after their shifts and downed Leinenkugels alongside insurance agents in short-sleeved dress shirts and choir directors in Birkenstocks and attorneys and social service case workers and even local politicians, most of whom got off work at 3:30 on Friday afternoons and began drinking around 3:54. Prairie City was a good-hearted place, not so much in the sense that moral aberrations never occurred but more in that when something did go wrong-a paleontology professor got caught downloading child pornography from the Web, an elected official was discovered freebasing coke in the public restroom behind the band shell--community head shaking took the form of bemusement rather than scorn. Everyone understood that everyone screwed up once in a while. What mattered was that you showed some class about it. What mattered was that you still helped your neighbor build his back deck. You still sat on the symphony board or at least volunteered to pick trash off the median of Highway 36 once a year. You accepted both your co-worker's gender reassignment surgery and the possibility that, during any given summer, golf-ball-sized hail could give your dog a concussion.

From The Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum. Copyright Meghan Daum 2003. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher Viking Press.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Genesis
    Genesis
    by Guido Tonelli
    Popular science books represent an important niche in non-fiction. They build a bridge between ...
  • Book Jacket: Buses Are a Comin'
    Buses Are a Comin'
    by Charles Person, Richard Rooker
    Charles Person was just 18 years old in 1961 when he became the youngest of the first wave of '...
  • Book Jacket: Firekeeper's Daughter
    Firekeeper's Daughter
    by Angeline Boulley
    Angeline Boulley's young adult novel Firekeeper's Daughter follows 18-year-old Daunis — ...
  • Book Jacket: Winter in Sokcho
    Winter in Sokcho
    by Elisa Dusapin
    Our unnamed narrator is a young French-Korean woman who works at a guest house in Sokcho, a popular ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Girl in His Shadow
by Audrey Blake
The story of one woman who believed in scientific medicine before the world believed in her.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Ariadne
    by Jennifer Saint

    A mesmerizing debut novel about Ariadne, Princess of Crete for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe.

  • Book Jacket

    Crossing the River
    by Carol Smith

    A powerful exploration of grief that combines memoir, reportage, and lessons in how to heal.

Who Said...

Choose an author as you would a friend

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S I T closet

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.