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Funny Books - Stone Soup - Desperate Households

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Desperate Households
A Stone Soup Collection
Jan Eliot
Andrews McMeel 2007
128 pages

Desperate Households is the sixth Stone Soup collection by Jan Eliot. I had been unaware of this comic strip until now and regret it. Stone Soup is a fun comic strip about Valerie Stone, a widow in her thirties, and her two daughters, Holly and Alix. They just happen to live next door to Valerie's sister, her new husband, and their two kids. This of course creates lots of comic situations. The sibling rivalry between Holly and Alix and Valerie and her sister Joan are but some of the story lines Stone Soup follows in Desperate Households.

There is such a thing as stone soup and though the recipes vary they are all based on the legend of people getting together and bringing an ingredient to make a communal soup or saving enough leftovers to put together with some chicken stock to create a family meal. This is pretty much what happens in this comic strip. The Valerie and Joan support each other through difficult times and Valerie tries to make do with the hand she has been dealt.

Desperate Households by Jan Eliot opens with Valerie being outplaced from her job. Her reaction to that, the depression that ensues, and her lack of motivation after a while are all realistic and something readers can relate to. I particularly enjoyed the strips where the eldest daughter got a job as an online Dear Abby and then struggled mightily to give her first paycheck to her mother. Better is her reaction when she discovers her hard earned money went to pay the water bill.

Not that I want to play spoiler but Valerie does get a job by the end of Desperate Households and that is perhaps a creative choice that I question. I did enjoy the back on relationship between Valerie and Officer Phil, a rare instance of a biracial relationship in the comic strip world.

What I particularly liked about Stone Soup and Desperate Households is its originality. Comic strips can be a bit repetitive and sometimes a gag can find itself echoed in another strip (such as the video game addicted kids being told to go outside only to set up a snow version of their favorite game) and this is not the case for this Jan Eliot strip.



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