By Katie Haegele
Sweet, funny, wistful, slightly sad yet somehow optimistic—how do I describe Katie Haegele’s writing? Well, maybe Katie found a few better words herself, like the Portuguese word saudade or the Welsh hiraeth. Both seem to get at that feeling of nostalgic sadness that's hard to pin down. Katie wasn’t necessarily using these words to describe her own writing, only that she’s familiar with the feeling they represent. That’s what White Elephants is about, really. It's about regaining the past and reclaiming something that has been lost. It’s about buying a bit of saudade. Of course, there’s also something satisfying about finding a good bargain.
White Elephants is four yard sale seasons in four sections. Throughout the book, Katie schools us on the differences, sometimes subtle, between yard sales and estate sales and their more churchy rummage sale cousins: different clientele, different proprietors and sometimes very different vibes can be found at each. Katie gives vivid, humorous descriptions of the people she encounters and the stuff they're either buying or parting with. White Elephants is about more than this, of course. Katie’s dad died when she was twenty-one and as a result of this tragic event she developed a friendship with her mother, and fellow yard sale devotee, that she might not have otherwise. White Elephants is also about relationships and community (Katie still lives in the town she grew up in, just down the street from the house she grew up in.) The last section, "Yard Sale Season Four," sees Katie embarking on a new relationship that might take her away from all of these things.
You can read White Elephants for tips on which sales might be best for finding used books or records, clothing or accessories. You won't be disappointed if you do, but read it for a story about loss, family and the comfort old things and you will be rewarded in kind by this well-written, heartfelt memoir. Now that's bargain!—Chris Auman
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