Gayle Brandeis

Ballantine Books

Paperback 2008
ISBN 978-0-345-49261-6

Hardcover 2007
ISBN 978-0-345-49260-9


"A novel of passion and consequence, identity and accountability. I love the narrator, her children, her wild ride, and this truly American story of getting mad and getting wise."
Flan Parker’s curious nature has translated into a thriving resale business. The secret of her success: unique and everyday treasures bought from the auctions of forgotten and abandoned storage units.

When Flan secures the winning bid on a box filled only with an address and a note inside bearing the word “yes,” she sets out to discover the source of this mysterious message and its meaning.

Armed with a well-worn copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass that she turns to for guidance and solace, Flan becomes determined to find the “yes” in her own life. It is an inward journey with outward surprises. When her search draws her toward her Afghan neighbor, convinced that a world of secrets lies beneath the woman’s burqa, Flan’s personal quest unexpectedly enters a more public stage.
"With fluid skill, bold as brass, Gayle Brandeis has revised the Song of Myself, reconfiguring ‘self’ as an open circle. This is a novel of passion and consequence, identity and accountability. I love the narrator, her children, her wild ride, and this truly American story of getting mad and getting wise."
author of Small Wonder and The Poisonwood Bible
“Walt Whitman couldn’t have asked for a slyer, funnier, savvier envoy than Gayle Brandeis to carry his Song of Myself into our day and age.”
author of Fruit of the Month and Polly’s Ghost
“If you doubt that a deadly serious thread—and also somehow all but laugh-out-loud funny—can connect the pillage of metal storage units, the fierce devotion to family, the rape of human sensibility, and the pursuit of art, read Self Storage.…Just take the hand of its great-hearted and deeply bewildered heroine, Flan, and hang on for the ride.”
author of Cage of Stars and The Deep End of the Ocean
“Gayle Brandeis’s marvelous new novel is a rare thing: a story of love, marriage, and friendship that stirs our most tender emotions without manipulation or bathos.”
author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
“Deftly plotted and engagingly told, Gayle Brandeis’s new novel is a suspenseful, thought-provoking, and inspiring exploration of what it means to be a sensitive and thoughtful human being living in George W. Bush’s America.”
author of Crossing California
“Peppered with wry wit and Walt Whitman, Self Storage is a skillfully told treasure hunter’s tale of compassion, coming of age, and, most importantly, transforming the life you’ve got into the life you want. In the American tradition of songs of oneself, Gayle Brandeis has written for her characters a standout song of personal growth accelerated by social awakening.”
author of The Year of Yes
“The personal and political collide in Gayle Brandeis’s complex and witty new novel, Self Storage. Like the flashlight Flan shines into storage lockers to find treasure, Brandeis’s novel illuminates the way we define our loved ones, our neighbors, and ourselves.”
author of How to Be Lost
"The Book of Dead Birds (2003), Brandeis’ debut, won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize. In her second brisk, covertly trenchant novel, Brandeis manages to weave Walt Whitman, 9/11, and secondhand goods into a provocative story about the nature of one’s self and the intrinsically human need to find meaning in life. Flannery cherishes an old edition of Leaves of Grass, her only bequest from her long-deceased mother. With Whitman as her spiritual guide, she lives hand-to-mouth with her soap-opera-addicted graduate-student husband, high-strung young son, and escape-artist toddler daughter in a Riverside, California, enclave for international scholars. To make ends meet, Flan buys and resells the auctioned-off, memory-laden contents of abandoned self-storage units. As though life isn’t precarious enough, Flan is drawn into a high-stakes drama involving her burka-wearing Afghan neighbor, the target of prejudice and hate crimes. Executing a marvelous narrative sleight of hand, Brandeis uses slyly insouciant humor and irresistible characters to delve into the true significance of neighborliness, advocate for doing the right thing, and celebrate a Whitmanesque embrace of life."

Links to Additional Reviews:

  • Los Angeles Times
  • New York Times
  • New York Daily News
  • San Francisco Chronicle
  • Tampa Tribune
  • Armchair Interviews
  • Code Pink
  • Fresh Fiction
  • Sure Woman
I was on tour with The Book of Dead Birds when my mother-in-law’s husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. I was able to change my flight so I could be with Jack, who was the dearest, sweetest man—a true gift to the family—and all our relatives in the hospital more quickly. On the plane, I didn’t really feel like talking to anyone, but the woman in my row engaged me in conversation. She had just lost a brother to brain cancer, so it turned out we had a lot to talk about. In the course of our conversation, she told me that she went to self storage auctions and sold her winnings at yard sales to make a little extra income. I had never heard of these auctions before, and was intrigued. I filed the information away in my mind; Jack died a few days later, and I was in too much grief to consider starting a new writing project for a while. This was June of 2003; that November, I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month for the second time. When I sat down to write on November 1st, nary a plot point in my head, I remembered the conversation I had on the airplane and decided to explore the self storage auction setting on the page. I had no idea what might emerge from it, and it took me on quite a journey. I’m so glad I’m able to honor Jack’s memory now through the novel.