Summary and book reviews of The Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum

The Quality of Life Report

by Meghan Daum

The Quality of Life Report
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  • First Published:
    May 2003, 309 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2004, 320 pages

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Book Summary

'Daum brings a crisp, wisecracking voice to her novel about Lucinda, a life-style correspondent for a morning television show, who, in search of a more interesting life, leaves New York for Prairie City, a fictional Midwestern town.'

One of today's most admired new voices blends social critique and a bittersweet love story marked by both style and substance.

Critics hailed Meghan Daum's My Misspent Youth as "pretty damn irresistible" (New York Newsday) for its fresh, funny, bracing take on modern life. In The Quality of Life Report, Meghan picks up on a timely theme and embodies it to perfection in the persona of Lucinda Trout.

Jaded by a life of eating from plastic containers, dodging the feng shui in her boss's office, and reporting on thong underwear as a lifestyle correspondent for New York morning television, the thirtyish Trout is ripe for escape. So when the rent on her tiny mouse-ridden apartment doubles overnight, she heads for Prairie City, USA, to feed her own and every New Yorker's heartland fantasy in dispatches tagged "The Quality of Life Report." "Real life" is what Lucinda's after—and, if possible, a man who knows how to wield a hammer. Fantasy becomes reality (in Prairie City, deviled eggs are a delicacy and fake nails are de rigueur); but reality has surprises up its sleeve. It takes Lucinda through an epiphany and an unlikely romance in a tale that is redemptive, wickedly witty, and heartbreaking all at once.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. If Lucinda was allowed to report without the dictates of the Up Early staff, what are some of the Quality of Life segments you think she might have produced?

  2. Space is a character in itself in the novel. Discuss the ways in which Daum uses space to illustrate Trout's journey.

  3. Hayley Bopp, the self-exploitative Web diarist-turned-novelist, figures throughout the book. On some level she acts as its villain. Why is she such an important counterpoint to Lucinda?

  4. What did you make of Christine? Did you find her lack of personality frustrating? Or were you more troubled by the fact that others imposed such expectations on her based on her physical, racial, and educational credentials?

  5. Did Mason's addiction come to you as a surprise? ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New Yorker

Daum brings a crisp, wisecracking voice to her novel about Lucinda, a life-style correspondent for a morning television show, who, in search of a more interesting life, leaves New York for Prairie City, a fictional Midwestern town.

The Washington Post - Heather Havrilesky

In The Quality of Life Report, Daum does her best work with little things -- minor scenes feel the most relevant, empty rooms the most populated. Like her heroine, the less interesting Daum is required to be, the more freedom she has to invent her own palatably melancholy universe out of rough edges and false starts.

The New York Times - Karen Karbo

The Quality of Life Report is effervescent and companionable and may well be written off as chick lit, though it deserves better. Daum's enormous comic gift -- and her ability to use it in the service of fundamentally serious issues -- is an unexpected delight.

The Los Angeles Times - Mark Rozzo

… smart, stylish and sometimes downright hilarious.

The Boston Globe -Dan Wakefield

Daum has written a first-rate novel

Library Journal - Nancy Pearl

Daum alternates between what seems to want to be social commentary (but what's her point?) and satire (but there's no humor, unless you consider a horse ejaculating on a group of party goers funny).

Publishers Weekly

...this is not mere chick lit, and men will enjoy it, too. It is a confident first novel, full of wit and deft social criticism....Daum is a rising star.

Booklist - Meredith Parets

Real life turns out to be complicated, and Daum raises big questions in her bracing, funny novel. At once hilarious and wistful, it's such a pleasure to read that after you turn the last page, you want to start over from the beginning and read it again.

Reader Reviews

JP

I recieved The Quality of Life Report as a gift recently, I usually don't read this type of book(mystery and horror for me), so I started this book with a not very open mind.
This book is worth reading. Very simple and to the point. It's very ...   Read More

Kim W

I really enjoyed this book, and the satirical way that Meghan Daum tells the story had me laughing and crying, sometimes on the same page. The story is about a young woman named Lucinda Trout who's a television journalist for a NYC program, and she'...   Read More

Leolene

Sorry, but it's depressing
I have read a lot of chick lit and this is not chick lit. It is a commentary on life in the midwest and God help anyone who lives there if this is a true representation. It's well-written, don't get me wrong. But it's a book where at the end, I didn'...   Read More

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