Holly Banks Full of Angst
Book One in the Village of Primm Series
A laugh-out-loud debut novel for anyone who’s tried to live the perfect life—and learned the hard way there’s no such thing.
Holly Banks could not have made a worse first impression on the seemingly perfect moms in her new affluent community, the Village of Primm. Turns out wearing pink piggy pajama bottoms while dropping off her kindergartener late to the first day of school wasn’t her best look.
Not to mention Holly’s worried her husband may be having an affair, she can’t get her daughter to stop sucking her thumb, her hard-won film degree is collecting dust, and to top it all off, the power-hungry PTA president clearly has it in for her…
To make matters even worse, Holly’s natural eye for drama lands her smack-dab in the middle of a neighborhood mystery—right as her own crazy mother shows up in Primm “to help.” Through it all, Holly begins to realize her neighbors may be just as flawed as—and even wackier than—she is, leaving her to wonder: Is there such a thing as a perfect mom?
Holly Banks Full of Angst
Book One in the Village of Primm Series
The Peculiar Fate of Holly Banks
Available November 24, 2020
Secrets, mystery, and the pursuit of perfection. Welcome to the Village of Primm
“Holly Banks has just moved with her husband, Jack, and their five-year-old daughter, Ella, to the Village of Primm. Their house, with its (former) Pinterest-worthy front porch, is full of boxes, and an eyesore of a bedsheet is hung up in lieu of curtains. Holly is doing all she can to keep it together for Ella as she starts kindergarten. From missing the bus to hitting the bus, all on the first day, things start on the wrong foot. When Holly skips out early during the first PTA meeting, the president, Mary-Margaret St. James, makes sure Holly pays her dues by assigning her to various committees. Thus begins Holly’s descent into a rabbit hole where exterior appearances are everything. Debut author Valerie’s excellent take on modern motherhood illustrates a mother’s attempts to keep up with the Joneses. Full of humor, including a bout with one too many detox cookies, an online psychic, and a cat doula, Valerie plays out the drama of being a wife and a mother. VERDICT Perfect for fans of Laurie Gelman’s “Class Mom” series and the TV show Desperate Housewives.”
HOLLY BANKS FULL OF ANGST
Review Issue Date: September 1, 2019
Online Publish Date: August 19, 2019
A mom tries—and spectacularly fails—to fit into her new picture-perfect town. When Holly Banks moves to the Village of Primm, she hopes it will be the start of a new adventure for her family. With its wonderful school system, immaculately tended lawns, and superinvolved parents, Primm couldn’t be anything less than perfect. However, aspiring-filmmaker Holly soon realizes that the town bears a slightly creepy resemblance to Stepford (of the famous wives), and no one appreciates her minor failures to live up to the status quo—like, for example, showing up to kindergarten drop-off while wearing pajamas or accidentally hitting a school bus in her attempts to move her car. Holly quickly finds a nemesis in PTA president Mary-Margaret St. James, a bizarrely Primm-obsessed mom who talks about herself in the third person and won’t let Holly leave the premises without volunteering for something (and not just for napkin duty, because everyone knows only the slacker moms sign up to bring napkins). But Holly has other things to worry about—for starters, she thinks her husband might be having an affair, she constantly has to pay her mother’s gambling debts, and she’s feeling bored and restless after putting her filmmaking dreams aside. Holly starts making her own documentary using the subject matter in front of her but soon realizes that Primm’s perfect veneer hides more than a few secrets. There are many novels about women struggling to fit into upper-class communities, but debut author Valerie manages to create a story that feels fresh, with sparkling dialogue that could have come from a weirder version of Gilmore Girls. Most of that is due to Holly’s voice, which is quirky without ever being annoying, and the cast of wacky side characters who are satirical while still feeling like real human beings. There are even several laugh-out-loud moments, most of them revolving around the bug infestation destroying the town’s prized topiaries, a privileged problem that highlights just how hilariously ridiculous the Village of Primm is. A unique and over-the-top look at modern motherhood, full of funny and cringeworthy moments.
Holly Banks Full of Angst
Print issue: October 15, 2019
Online: October 9, 2019
Holly Banks, her husband, Jack, and their daughter, Ella, are the newest residents of the Village of Primm. An idyllic suburban enclave, Primm boasts a famed topiary garden, festivals in the town square, and an extremely engaged PTA president. Mary-Margaret St. James runs the social calendar of Primm Academy, and hasn’t met a task too big to bully fellow parents into volunteering for. When Holly gets off on the wrong foot with Mary-Margaret, she stumbles into a mystery she’ll do anything to solve. Valerie’s witty, rollicking novel is an ode to modern motherhood in the vein of Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It (2002) and Francesca Segal’s The Awkward Age (2017). While the plot pacing lags a bit, Holly’s journey from shrinking violet to confident kindergarten parent will entertain until the last page. Holly’s rich inner world and a larger-than-life ensemble of supporting characters plant this novel firmly in the dark comedy camp, perfect for fans of Matthew Norman and Francie Arenson Dickman. A charmingly cautionary tale of the pursuit for domestic perfection.
Kathleen McInerney’s dynamic narration will have listeners either laughing out loud or cringing as she skillfully captures the absurdity and craziness of this dark comedic debut. Stressed out and overwhelmed, Holly Banks is failing at getting her life together after her husband’s job relocates them across the country to the zany village of Primm. With the brisk plot taking place in only a week, McInerney’s pace and lively tones reinforce the constant urgency of trying to be the perfect mom. McInerney easily transitions between characters and never misses a beat as the story unfolds through scenes, emails, texts, and inner monologue. Especially noteworthy is McInerney’s portrayal of Holly’s emotional vulnerability as she prepares both herself and her daughter for kindergarten.
E.P. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
“Ever wonder what would happen if Liane Moriarty could channel the late Robin Williams? Me, neither—until I read this astonishing debut, a modern allegorical marvel. Valerie absolutely skewers Parenting While Privileged, and pulls it off without preaching or condescending, thanks to the irresistible, inimitable heroine, Holly, the (questionably) sane person in the insane (but wholly recognizable) world of Primm. I tore through this inventive, compulsive read, pausing only to catch my breath and wipe my eyes at passages so outrageously hilarious, I could not believe what I was reading. So come for the humor, but stay for the honesty. Valerie imbues the narrative with sincerity, and with truths so bald that, at times, the world fell away around me. I’m on my feet and clapping: Brava!”
”A fresh voice in fiction, Julie Valerie hits it out of the park with her debut novel, Holly Banks Full of Angst. Wise and witty, it’s filled with humor that takes some wildly comical turns at times. Lead character Holly Banks, a newcomer to the idyllic village of Primm, is every mom who feels inadequate because her home isn’t Pinterest-worthy and she’s a less-than-perfect-parent—totally relatable, in other words. Her good heart, which shines through even when she’s screwing up, ultimately triumphs over her good-intentions-gone-awry. Love, love, love this novel and can’t wait to read the next one by Julie Valerie.”
“Seemingly perfect lives are usually anything but, as the eponymous protagonist of Holly Banks Full of Angst quickly learns. A sharp, witty, and altogether unexpected story about how striving can lead you straight to the end of your rope, Julie Valerie’s debut is not to be missed.”
“You will love the time you spend with Holly Banks in the Stars Hollow–esque Village of Primm. Holly is the perfect heroine: flawed, impulsive, and self-deprecating but also deeply relatable, lovable, and hilarious. This book is pure fun (but be prepared to cry a little). Holly Banks Full of Angst is the perfect read for anyone who has ever wanted to stick it to the Pinterest Mom.”
“Our plucky heroine, full of quippy asides and enough anxiety to keep us all up ruminating at 3:00 a.m., imagines herself the star of her own movie (because of course she dreams of ditching her SAHM life and fulfilling her long-lost film student aspirations). Personally, I would title her movie Mean Girls for Moms, and you’d find me at the premiere, front row center!”
“Julie Valerie does a great job relaying the anxiety that comes with starting your daughter in kindergarten in a new school and a new town. And she does it with the perfect mix of humor and humility.”
“Holly Banks Full of Angst is a must-read for any mother who sometimes feels inadequate—and what mother doesn’t? With themes of new beginnings, the quest for perfection, motherhood, and marriage, Valerie delivers lessons in hospitality, humanity, and hope, gently reminding us that we’re all works in progress. If you’re looking for a fun escape filled with humor and heart, look no further than Holly Banks Full of Angst.”
“With wit, whimsy, and an artful sleight-of-the-hand turn of more than a few phrases, Julie Valerie crafts a frothy cautionary tale of suburbia on steroids. It doesn’t aim to be a soothing tonic for the way we live now. Far from it. In each successive scene, heroine Holly’s quest for acceptance by the village of Primm’s well-heeled yummy mommies is stymied by her dream neighborhood’s self-righteous queen bee, Mary-Margaret St. James. It would be much too easy to make readers despise Mary-Margaret. Instead, Valerie nudges our shock at her audacity into awe over her subtle gamesmanship, which invariably has her minions shaking in their Rothy’s flats. No need to skewer Mary-Margaret with snark. Instead, Valerie’s fiercely funny narrative cuts deeper than any swizzle stick. But the village’s highly desired and prolifically Instagrammed curb appeal comes at a very high price. Thankfully, before Holly’s pursuit of the Primm rose-colored view of life is attained at the expense of her less-than-perfect mother, husband, child, dog, and documentary film-making career, she discovers the one secret about the town that can ruin it—or be its salvation. Like a finely crafted cocktail, Valerie’s literary libation packs a potent punch: effervescent but complex, sweet but with just a hint of bitter. I’ll have what she’s having.“
“With astonishing wit, razor-sharp dialogue, and pitch-perfect pacing, Julie Valerie has created a masterpiece about motherhood. Holly Banks Full of Angst is absolutely hilarious yet also deeply poignant, with some of the best lines I’ve ever read. Both satire and upmarket women’s fiction, this novel will be beloved by readers everywhere.”
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