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The Stager: A Novel Written
By One of Our Own


For any author, having a novel published is an act of bravery, exposing one’s talents to the world. Even more brave is if publication comes while working full-time in a bookstore, among colleagues who are tough literary critics. That’s exactly what has happened to our own Susan Coll, P&P’s director of events and programs, whose fifth novel, The Stager, was released this month.

Susan needn’t fret. Her book already has received favorable reviews in The Washington Post and the Washingtonian, and was tweeted this month by best-selling author Cheryl Strayed (writer of Wild). Naturally, we want to join the chorus toasting Susan and celebrating a terrific new addition to P&P’s list of recommended fiction.

Fans of Susan’s earlier books know that she’s a master of dark comedy that focuses on lives and lifestyles in the upscale enclaves of suburban Washington, DC. But while her novels are set locally, their themes resonate with readers far beyond the nation’s capital. Topics have ranged from parents gone amok over kids’ college applications to teenagers gone amok at high school “beach weeks.” In The Stager, Susan uses a real estate transaction—the sale of a large house in a tony suburban zip code—to explore the excesses, foibles, and yearnings that lurk beneath a gloss of faux success, happiness, and perfection. The result is an entertaining, humorous tale that also manages to penetrate the deeper, darker absurdities of contemporary life.

Susan came up with the idea for the book when she was putting her own house on the market some years ago and was advised to use a “stager” to make it more appealing to potential buyers. The experience was dehumanizing in ways she hadn’t imagined and led her to think about “staging” as a metaphor for the world around her. She worked on the book for several years, usually at night and on weekends when she wasn’t at the store. The writing took longer than with her previous works, but the slower pace, she says, turned out to be fortuitous, giving her more time to craft characters and narrative.

A number of us at P&P consider this book to be Susan’s best yet. We’re especially partial to one of her main characters, Dominique, who happens to be a very wise rabbit. The cover is also one of the cleverest we’ve seen.

We hope you enjoy The Stager as much as we have.

--Brad and Lissa