Flan Parker makes money off of other people’s lost stuff. With her husband passively working on his thesis and two children to support, Flan makes money off the contents of unpaid-for storage units that she bids on. Before selling her spoils, Flan vicariously lives through the contents of each box as a reprieve from her own routine life.
Although there are worse mates out there, Flan feels somewhat alone in her marriage as her husband, Shae, atrophies on the couch “researching” his thesis. Tables turn, however, when an Afghani woman accidentally hits Flan’s youngest child with a car. Shae becomes the full-time nurturer for their daughter while Flan can barely step foot in the hospital.
This accident raises many issues for Flan – what kind of mother she is, how to help the Afghani woman (who is being demonized by the community and fears being sent back to Afghanistan), and what to do about the lack of her relationship with her father. Her guides through this are her cherished copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and a single box found in a storage unit that contains a scrap of paper with the word “yes” on it. Flan is inspired to live by following what makes her say “yes” inside and by celebrating herself, her family and life.
What Flan finds by the end of Self Storage is not any extra insight to life’s secrets, but access to an inner compass to navigate her way through this world. Brandeis hasn't written a typical post-9/11 novel filled with rhetoric and assumptions. Instead, she presents something that we need more of today - a willingness to try to understand those who are different than us and a commitment to doing what's right. It's a book worth checking out just for its hopefulness.