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Getting Clean With Stevie Green

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About The Book

The author of the “sparkling dark romance” (Redbook) We Could Be Beautiful brings her “wit and verve” (The New York Times Book Review) to this quirky, feel-good novel about one woman’s messy journey from self-delusion to self-acceptance.

At thirty-seven, Stevie Green has had it with binge drinking and sleeping with strange men. She’s confused about her sexuality and her purpose in life. When her mother asks her to return to her hometown of La Jolla to help her move into a new house, she’s desperate enough to say yes. The move goes so well that Stevie decides to start her own decluttering business. She stops drinking. She hires her formerly estranged sister, Bonnie, to be her business partner. She rekindles a romance with her high school sweetheart, Brad. Things are better than ever—except for the complicated past that Stevie can’t seem to outrun.

Who was responsible for the high school scandal that caused her life to take a nosedive twenty years earlier? Why is she so secretive about the circumstances of her father’s death? Why are her feelings for her ex-friend, Chris, so mystifying? If she’s done drinking, then why can’t she seem to declutter the mini wine bottles from her car?

A winsome, fast-paced read, Getting Clean With Stevie Green is about coming to terms with who you are, resolving the pain of your past, and accepting the truth of your life in all its messy glory.

Excerpt

Chapter 1: Stevie CHAPTER 1 stevie
It’s so hard to know who you are.

That’s why I’m constantly looking in the mirror.

Who am I?

Who am I now?

What about now?

I check myself out from various angles, trying to clock a change. That’s what people do in moments of transition, right?

If nothing else, I find the sight of my reflection soothing. In my head, I’m a mess, but in the mirror, I’m solid. I’m a woman who has her life in order. I dress well, I do my hair, I have an open, friendly face. You would ask me for directions. You would trust me with your children.

If I were a town, I would probably be my hometown. La Jolla, California, is a place with a winning exterior. It dresses well. It’s ordered. It’s warm. Its lucky placement on a breathtaking portion of the Southern California coastline means it’s never had to try too hard. An image of La Jolla is an image of an easy life.

Considering the fortunate circumstances under which I grew up, there should have been no reason for my easy life to turn into a trash fire.

Except for that it did.

Why?

Because of one incident. I would call this one the inciting indent.

Unfortunately, the inciting incident had been on my mind all the time since moving home six months earlier, but it also wasn’t the point.

“The point,” I said to myself in the rearview, “is about starting over now.”

The light turned green. It was another perfect, sunny day in La Jolla, and I was driving to the house of a new client, Lauren Strong. I liked to use my car time to practice my spiel, and this is what I did now.

First, I quelled any potential embarrassment with my usual reminder: If anyone sees me talking to myself, they’ll assume that I am on the phone.

I cleared my throat.

And then I began.

“Do you have a picture in your mind of the person you want to become? And a profound sense of how you’ll feel when you become that person? Are you almost there, but not quite yet? If so, then let me help you!

“The difference between a clean life and a clean enough life might look small from afar, but it’s actually the Grand Canyon. Yes, you can put on a show for people. Yes, you can lie. Yes, you can live in a palace and wear great clothes and say the right things, but if your closets are packed to the brim with stuff you don’t need, and if you also feel a little bit dead inside, then who cares how sparkly your life looks to other people? If it doesn’t feel clean to you, then it’s not.”

I was practicing my spiel for Lauren, of course, but I was also practicing for a more successful future, possibly one that included a TV spot or a book tour—some professional event that starred me, a woman who was mic’d and teeming with unbreakable confidence. There would be a newly waxed stage and a rapt audience and somewhere nearby, a poster that said, STEVIE GREEN, DECLUTTERING GURU.

“Now you’re probably like, ‘Well, okay, I think my life could be cleaner, and why isn’t it already?’?”

I paused here for dramatic effect.

“Because you don’t know what you want. And that’s okay. Not knowing what you want makes you like everyone else. It also really sucks, and you don’t need to live that way anymore.

“The solution is simple, but there are no shortcuts. Actually, we’re taking the long way to make sure we haven’t left anything out. In order to figure out what you really want, we’re going to start by getting rid of everything you don’t want. You know that guess-and-check thing you used to do in math class? Have you heard the song ‘The Long Way Around’? It’s like that. By saying goodbye to all the incorrect answers, we’ll land at the right one, and the right one is your clean and honest life.”

Out of habit, I opened the center console and counted the bottles of screw-top chardonnay with my hand. One, two, three. I didn’t want to drink them. That’s why I kept them close by: to remind myself. I’d imagine the taste of buttery wine and feel the hot prick at the back of my throat and think, No thanks. They were like a stress ball. They reduced my stress. Plus, they were tiny and taking up barely any room in my life, so who cared.

“Your stuff is holding you back and weighing you down! You’re drowning in it,” I said, slamming the center console shut. “But not anymore. It’s time to free yourself. It’s time to become who you are.”

About The Author

Photo by Jen Rosenstein.

Swan Huntley is the author of Getting Clean With Stevie GreenThe Goddesses, and We Could Be Beautiful. She earned her MFA at Columbia University and has received fellowships from MacDowell and Yaddo, where she was the 2019 recipient of The LeSage-Fullilove Residency. Her writings have appeared on SalonThe Rumpus, and Autostraddle, among others. She lives in Los Angeles.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (February 1, 2022)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982159627

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Raves and Reviews

“Compelling ... animated by genuine emotional resonance—plus a thoughtful exploration of addiction, anxiety about sexual identity, and the ways family bonds shift in adulthood.”Kirkus Reviews 

“Huntley shines in this story of a woman returning home to get her life together... This smart and expertly plotted tale captivates."Publishers Weekly

“Imperfect, maddening, charming Stevie... Loyal readers of Kelly Harms, Lia Louis, and Maria Semple will fall for this compelling novel of identity, reinvention, and the contrast between ordered spaces and hidden chaos.”—Booklist

"A charming, fast-paced read, filled with idiosyncratic and unforgettable characters, you’ll fall in love with Stevie and her messes (personal and professional), and maybe even be inspired to cleaning up of your own.”BuzzFeed

“Swan Huntley's witty and fast-paced third novel follows an organizational guru as she works through addiction, self-acceptance and sexuality, and attempts to take control of her life.”Shelf Awareness

"Swan Huntley has captured the essence of the disaster queer, and the long curved journey to finding out who you truly are.”—Gaby Dunn, New York Times bestselling co-author of I Hate Everyone But You

"There is no one, and I mean no one, like Swan Huntley. The fact that we get to consume this “can’t put it down” gem of a novel is the greatest gift I can think of during what often feels like the end of times. Getting Clean with Stevie Green will have you asking, “How does she know I feel that way too?” There’s no category for Swan Huntley so don’t even try. Just find her and never let her go.”—Jennifer Pastiloff, bestselling author of On Being Human

“The woman at the center of Swan Huntley’s delicious new novel specializes in helping her clients make their houses feel more like homes—so it’s maybe no surprise I found myself wanting to live inside the book. Getting Clean with Stevie Green is funny, sweet, sexy, and wise—as irresistible as Stevie herself. By the end of the first page I was already rooting for her to clean up her mess of a life. By the end of the book I was ready to hire her to clean up mine!”—Robin Wasserman, author of Girls on Fire

"What a ride through another person's trauma responses. It's refreshing to read a queer coming-of-age story that feels realistic about addiction, recovery, late-blooming, and the perpetual puzzle of figuring out who you are. I only put it down in between bouts of inspired decluttering and queer panic.”—Arabelle Sicardi, author of Queer Heroes

“Swan Huntley is a master of the character-driven comedy; with sharp wit and a keen eye for detail, she’s written a book that is as funny as it is authentic. How do we understand ourselves if not by the objects - and people - with which we surround ourselves? Getting Clean with Stevie Green is a book that, with Huntley’s signature wry charm, asks the deep questions and delivers unexpected answers.”—Jen Silverman, author of We Play Ourselves

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