Based Upon Availability by Alix Strauss

Title:  Based Upon Availability
Author:  Alix Strauss
Release date:  June 8, 2010
Publisher:  Harper Paperbacks
Pages:  352
Genre:  Adult fiction
Source:  Publisher, TLC Book Tours

Based Upon Availability chronicles the lives of eight New York women as they pass through Manhattan’s Four Seasons Hotel.  As these women’s lives take them through the hotel in some way or another, they all come into contact with Morgan, the hotel manager, who is the common thread in all of their stories.

When I read the publisher’s description of this novel (which is much longer and more detailed than my own, by the way) I was thinking it would be a novel about how these women’s lives intersected, how they became friends, or made connections, or something like that.  But what the book was really about was each woman’s personal drama, life trauma, and marital/family issues.  Once I understood where the book was going, I was able to settle into the novel and really enjoy it, but I have to admit that it did take a while to get rid of those expectations.

The structure and pacing of this novel was kind of odd to me.  It is a novel, yet the chapters about the individual women read like short stories, except for Morgan’s, which takes up the first third of the book.  After finishing Morgan’s section and moving on to the other women, I found myself a bit confused – is this a novel or short stories?  So I think that transition could have been a bit smoother.  That being said, I did enjoy the book despite the choppiness of parts of it.

What I most enjoyed about Based Upon Availability was getting to know the characters.  Strauss introduces the reader to eight main characters, and while it was somewhat difficult to keep track of all of their back stories at first, by the end I felt each character was a fully realized, complex, real person.  All eight of them had major issues, and some were more sympathetic and interesting than others, but overall I felt for each of them and hoped for a resolution to whatever was going wrong in their lives.

One thing I absolutely loved about the novel was finding the little connections between the characters sprinkled throughout the book.  Obviously, Morgan connected with each of them, but there were other little connections too.  Characters I didn’t think would know one another ended up connecting in little ways.  Also, I enjoyed reading from Morgan’s point of view how she met each of the other women, and then reading from each of the others’ perspectives how that same meeting took place.  Very rarely in a novel do you hear multiple versions of the exact same event, and it was interesting to say the least.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience of reading Based Upon Availability.  While I didn’t care for the structure of the book, the well-written characters truly saved the story for me.  I would absolutely pick up another book by Alix Strauss, as I think she is a very talented writer with much to offer her readers.  I recommend Based Upon Availability if you enjoy a solid character-driven read.


17 thoughts on “Based Upon Availability by Alix Strauss”

  1. This sort of sounds like some of Maeve Binchy’s books… have you read hers and would you say so? I like her books so maybe I’ll like this one. It just seems like I’ve read reviews from both ends of the spectrum for this one!

    1. I did read one of her books, but it was years ago so I can’t remember enough to compare it to this one. Yeah I was sorta in the middle about this one. I really liked the characters, but the awkwardness of the pacing was so weird to me… a good story though!

  2. I liked this book a lot, although I also didn’t really classify the book as a novel. I thought the intricacies of the women’s lives and the turbulence of their emotions was really involving and interesting to read about. I really liked your insightful review as well.

    1. I’m glad I am not the only one stuck on the novel/short story thing! I felt like maybe I was misinterpreting where the book was supposed to go, what it was trying to do with the structure, but at least I’m not alone! I’m glad you liked it too, and thanks for stopping by!

  3. The set up of the book sounds a bit like reading “Let The Great World Spin” where you went from one person’s story to anther’s. They did have the common thread of the wire walker, like this one has Morgan. But it sounds like these don’t link to each other quite as much. It does sound like it would be easier to read if you knew better, going in, what you were getting.

  4. As another reviewer commented (Nomad reader, I believe?) there was an awful lot of Morgan’s story in the beginning, but I enjoyed the charater’s dilemmas and howt heir lives intertwined. I think your review is quite thorough and gives a good indication of what the reader can expect.

  5. I too thought there would be more intersecting between the characters (based on the publisher’s summary) – thanks for clarifying that for me. I’m glad to know that there are SOME ways in which they each affect the others live though; that’s what made me want to read the book to begin with.

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