Praise for The Understory by Elizabeth Leiknes

If Phoenix was a Jungle, Story Easton Lived in the Understory . . .

“Leiknes’ second novel is an inspired blend of magical realism, humor, and romance. Nearly 30 years old, Story Easton is still the loser she always was, writing insipid inscriptions for greeting cards by day and sneaking into other people’s homes by night (for the vicarious thrill of it). So when Story finds a cause to pursue—helping a troubled boy named Cooper Payne—she feels, for the first time, like her life has purpose, and she stops at nothing for what she feels is the “greater good.” Her task is a tall one—to find a box full of magic in the third layer of the Amazon Rainforest (called the Understory)—and she enlists the help of an unlikely team to make the journey. What unfolds in a lovely story of lost souls who find solace in the company of each other. There’s the widowed author of a popular children’s book about Amazonian flowers; Cooper’s mother, trying to help her son get over the loss of his father; and Hans, a handyman and artist whose hands ache whenever he finds a woman he can’t help. An involving novel that combines character study with elements of a fairy tale.”—Booklist

“Leiknes’s love for the interconnectedness of human stories iscontagious. Story Easton, the aptly named heroine of this cheeky andirreverent fairy tale, has a charming case of literary Tourettesyndrome (among other enchanting quirks) and is a delight to tag alongwith on her week-long attempt to make a success of herself. Layer bylayer, laugh by laugh, The Understory shows Leiknes’s talents in fullbloom.”—Ben Rogers, Author of acclaimed novel, The Flamer, and recipient of a Nevada Arts Council Fellowship and two Sierra Arts Foundation Literary Artist Endowment Grants

The Understory is one of those books that will stay in my thoughts for a long time. It’s an enchanting modern fairy tale full of silliness and sadness, humor, heartbreak, and hope. The story is about, well, a young woman named ‘Story’ whose odd quirk brings together a group of people all suffering from the loss of a loved one. Story Easton is so strange that I couldn’t help but like her. She feels like such a failure in her own life that at night, she breaks into other people’s houses to sleep in their beds (or guest beds). But why? It’s Story’s way of escaping her own dismal existence to become someone else for the night. It’s on two of her uninvited sleepovers that she meets a small group of people whose lives and pain are interconnected, though they have no idea. One of them is Cooper Payne. His father promised to take him, on his ninth birthday, to the rainforest to find the magical box written about in his favorite book. Cooper’s dad was killed before he could fulfill his promise. When Story hears about this, she takes it upon herself to see that Cooper’s wish is granted. This is her chance to finally succeed at something, and she’s determined not to let the boy’s belief in magic die. This was such a sweet and touching story. There were many funny moments and a few very sad ones, too. The author did a flawless job weaving together the lives of her complicated characters; just when you think a group of strangers can’t get any closer, they do! Now, there were one or two instances in the book that were not realistic at all, but if readers can suspend disbelief just for a bit, they’ll really enjoy Elizabeth Leiknes’ quirky and uplifting story.”—Novel Reflections

“This book charmed me immediately . . . even though I knew nothing about it, but something made me request it and I am so glad I did. First off, let me talk about the writing in The Understory. Elizabeth Leiknes has a way with words, guys. She is so clever and incredibly hilarious. So many lines in this book made me laugh out loud. Also, she swears, not constantly but to great effect. So if you're offended by swearing, this book will not be for you. If you are amused by it, you'll love it. I also loved that though her writing is quite beautiful; it also feels very natural, in the dialogue as well. The Understory is, more than anything, about the serendipitous connections between certain people. Told in a fairy tale type manner, characters come together in a way that is either entirely coincidental or fated. Either way, everyone finds the people they need in their lives. They come together in the perfect way to fix broken hearts, to move on in grief, to realize strength, and to grow up. I loved this. This is what I want life to be like. The subtle magic running through the story, though not actually MAGIC as in a fantasy novel, reminds me strongly of Sarah Addison Allen (who I love). Though there wasn't any legit magic, this book felt magical to me. The characters in this book are amazing. Story Thyme Easton (poor girl) is delightfully and unapologetically bitchy, as well as being really messed up. She lives in the shadow of her incredibly successful mother, burdened by her name, and considers suicide. Her dream is to write honest, sarcastic greeting cards that say things like ‘Life Sucketh. Sorry.’ Dudes, I would buy cards like that. Her only comforts in life are greasy hamburgers and breaking into other people's houses to try on their shoes and sleep in their beds (like a modern Goldilocks), because she so desperately wants out of her life. She is obsessed with first lines of novels and quotes them to herself constantly. The other characters are lovely too. Hans, the carpenter, who totally made me swoon. I don't usually go for the strong silent type but YOWZA. Also, he and Story have insane chemistry. There is some excellent romance in here, for those of you who enjoy that (and why wouldn't you?!?). Story's mother is obnoxious, but in that real mother kind of way. Cooper is one of the most adorable little moppets ever. Plus, I love that he and his mother, Claire, have a parrot that swears constantly. Amusing animal, ftw! Guys, seriously, this book was super amazing . . . If you like magic, fairy tales, and humor, read this!”— A Reader of Fictions

“A fabulous whimsical tale starring an intriguing individual trying to succeed at something she believes is worthwhile—saving the life of a grieving child. For the first time in a long time, Story knows failure is unacceptable. The entertaining storyline is filled with irony, humor, pathos, and a major coincidence that fosters the concept that there are no degrees of separation because everyone is linked to everyone in some manner.” —Harriet Klausner, America’s #1 Reviewer

“Wow! What an amazing book! Author Elizabeth Leiknes has got to be one of my favorite writers in this world. Her writing style, which is almost staccato, has a very nice beat and rhythm to it, and resembles the style of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I have now added The Understory to my top ten books . . . ever written.”—Josiah Morgan, 11-year-old YouTube Reviewer, New Zealand

"In The Understory, Elizabeth Leiknes paints a rich and theme-tastic storybook-world filled with complex characters who ache and suffer in very real ways, characters who need the magic Leiknes provides to reclaim what they've lost and find what they've been missing. A thoroughly engaging read, The Understory, like most fairy tales, leaves one believing in the transformative magic within."—Josh Galarza, author of Corpse, a novel, and recipient of the prestigious Artist Fellowship in Literary Arts from the Nevada Arts Council

The Understory is an odd and charming fairy tale in which the hurt, betrayed, and broken find their unlikely but welcome ending thanks to a girl searching for her own happily-ever-after. From its quirky first sentence to its final perfect finish, The Understory captivated me.”— unabridged chick

“I absolutely loved this book. It was a fast, easy read and one that I didn't want to put down. It's about a woman who is a constant disappointment in life, at least according to her mother.  She has become so bored with her mundane life and the job she hates, she begins to break into people's house at night to see a little bit of how others live. Much to her surprise, she realizes that some people need more help than she does. I won't tell you too much more lest I ruin anything, but it's such a heartwarming story that you must read it!” —Black and Blonde

“Sweet and charming story. Very high quirk factor, which really speaks to me. Can't wait to read the author's previous novel, The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns.”Gina Beirne, Library Media Specialist, Southside High School, Elmira, NY

“Like your first book, The Understory is a refreshing and engaging mix of genres and gleefully pursues the (ultimately rhetorical) question of whether an amoral female protagonist can have a happy ending. Part fairy tale, part inverted morality tale, and part family drama with a quirky but satisfying romantic thread, The Understory is a lovely book, a perversely amusing and optimistic portrait of grief, cynicism, and failure.. . . And while The Understory is not a romance, it has a strong streak of romanticism that makes it impossible not to root for its many suffering characters, including Story, whose unconventional heroism depends strongly on the imperfect and sometimes less-than-admirable aspects of her character: . . . Like the Amazonian rainforest and its titular layer, The Understory is made up of many interconnected themes, images, and experiences: growth, maturity, loss, the nature of heroism, fate, pain, and healing, to mention just a few. . . . Indeed, there is a great deal of cleverness in the novel, especially in the ways these themes are layered and intertwined, self-consciously referenced and examined (and it should not surprise you to discover that Martin Baxter is a university professor). . . . I found the writing more developed and complex in The Understory than in The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns, and I found much to enjoy and appreciate in this second book. That Story’s name moved past the cheesy cliché it could have so easily been, and into thematic territory crowded with questions about how people create their own lives, how we tell those stories to ourselves and others and thus perpetuate them, the nature of personal reality and its impact on those around us, the effect of serendipity on our life paths, and the way relationships both affirm and challenge the stories we tell ourselves about the world and our place in it. The fabular qualities of the narrative were both etheric and visceral in their presentation and effect, and the lovely articulation and celebration of imperfection stood up against the moments where a lack of subtlety or unfinished narrative development undercut the story’s emotional resonance. Each character faces the same poignant challenge: to thrive in the darkness, like the elusive and beautiful moonflower, not simply to endure it. All in all, a thoughtful, clever, funny, and enjoyable book, and I certainly look forward to the author’s next story. B+”—Dear Author

“This was a fun, good fairy tale story. I enjoyed every page!” —Sheri, Goodreads User

The Understory is literary, hilarious, romantic, and clever all at the same time. I loved it.”Read Now, Sleep Later

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