One-Minute Book Reviews

February 5, 2008

Alice Kuipers’s ‘Life on the Refrigerator Door’: At Last, a Novel for Anybody Who Thinks That Mitch Albom Is Too Difficult

A novel from Canada that you could finish during the commercials for a hockey game

Life on the Refrigerator Door: A Novel in Notes. By Alice Kuipers. HarperCollins, 220 pp., $15.95.

By Janice Harayda

Alice Kuipers’s first novel answers the perversely fascinating question: Can anybody write a book dumber than Mitch Albom’s For One More Day? Albom writes at a third-grade reading level, according to the Flesch-Kincaid readability statistics that come with Microsoft Word. Kuipers writes at a second-grade reading level. And because Kuipers lives in Saskatoon, you have to wonder if some kind of trickle-up — or trickle-north — effect is at work here.

An Amazon reviewer said that she read Life on the Refrigerator Door in 20 minutes. I believe her, because I read it during the Super Bowl halftime show. If you’re still trying to get through the new Richard Pevear translation of War and Peace, a book you can read in less than a half hour might sound appealing. But Life on the Refrigerator Door costs $15.95. If you live in a state with the kind of killer sales tax we have here in New Jersey, reading this book could cost you nearly a dollar minute. Next to it, that 1,296-page War and Peace looks like a steal at $37.

Perhaps the kindest way to review Life on the Refrigerator is stick to the facts. First, this a novel about a doctor who doesn’t have a cell phone. Or, apparently, a pager. So she has to communicate with her 15-year-old daughter by notes on the refrigerator. When the doctor gets a horrible, life-threatening disease, they keep communicating that way. One of the main things we learn from this correspondence is that the inability to punctuate a compound sentence may be inherited.

Still, I wouldn’t be too hard on this feel-good-about-feeling-bad female weepie. Unlike For One More Day, the book does have a modestly clever gimmick at its core. How many novels have you read that consist entirely of notes on a refrigerator? Can a novel told in magnets be far behind?

Best line: The epigraph, a poem by William Carlos Williams.

Worst line: “Peter was soooooooooo cute earlier, you should have seen him with the toy carrot Dad got him.”

Recommendation? Like For One More Day and Mister Pip, Life on the Refrigerator Door is a book for children masquerading as adult reading. It may especially appeal to 10-to-13-year-old girls.

Published: September 2007

Furthermore: Although I read this novel during the Super Bowl halftime show, I wasn’t watching the performances. I was at the Chinese place picking up food.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. Best blogpost title ever. 🙂

    Comment by Jon — February 6, 2008 @ 11:28 am | Reply

  2. Glad you liked it, Jon. Sorry I had to write it, though, because I love epistolary novels and picked this one up for that reason. It just didn’t deliver.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — February 6, 2008 @ 11:48 am | Reply

  3. […] Links:  Here’s such a harsh review that it actually made me laugh (and […]

    Pingback by Life on the Refrigerator Door, by Alice Kuipers « Paper Diet Books — June 11, 2008 @ 11:43 pm | Reply

  4. although i agree the novel is easy reading, i think there have to be some novels like this one, which manages to convey a poignant message about making the most of the time we have with those we love, without the long winded use of prose and with a fair stab at realism.
    i would also recommend you check the classification of several bookstores stocking of this book – it is almost always listed in the tween section.

    Comment by readaholic30 — April 15, 2009 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

    • This book comes from the adult division of its publisher. Bookstores may choose to sell it in the tween section, but that only proves my point about how dumbed-down it is: The publisher classifies the book as “adult” reading, but some bookstores apparently realize that it’s written at too low a level for adults.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — April 15, 2009 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

  5. […] Links:  Here’s such a harsh review that it actually made me laugh (and […]

    Pingback by Life on the Refrigerator Door, by Alice Kuipers | Tree, Root, and Twig — September 9, 2010 @ 8:29 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: