by Liz Bieler
At the beginning of the pandemic, I was home and bored. I started writing. The news at that time was pretty scary, and I wanted to write something funny, but meaningful. Two-and-a-half years and seven rewrites later, my scribbling became a published novel, Alice in Condoland. The book is full of laugh-out-loud moments, but there are layers to this tale. Before I get into them, here’s a summary of the plot:
Alice Miller is an idealistic young woman who leaves the New York rat race in search of a more passionate and authentic life in South Florida. Her Manhattan salary affords her an ocean-facing condominium and luxury beyond her wildest, Upper West Side dreams. Those dreams, however, become a nightmare when she discovers corruption everywhere–in the news, at work, and in her new building, where self-dealing managers blatantly misuse her hard-earned cash. How can she fight back–and win–against pervasive fraud?
Fully appreciative of the often-comical multi-cultural swirl around her, Alice meets a series of characters–the Champion, Sherlock Holmez, Joanna Rivers, and Florence Nightingale–who become her friends. Working together, they bridge Condoland’s English/Spanish divide. The Jews, Latins, and Latin Jews of Condoland join forces, launching an all-out campaign to overthrow their Board of “Drektors.” In the midst of this struggle, Alice blooms. She reassesses her life, relationships, and career, leaving behind what no longer serves her. By eschewing the opinions of others, Alice builds self-confidence to pursue her happiness.
With that background, I’ll move onto the layers:
- The Latin community in South Florida in particular and the U.S. in general is multi-faceted and multicultural. I am tired of seeing exiles dehumanized and devalued in our society. I wanted readers to see a fuller picture. My Latin characters are exiles and emigrants. They are professionals who left successful businesses, friends, and even family members to escape corruption and violence in their home countries. They have sophisticated tastes in art, music, and cuisine. Engineers, architects, and businesspeople, they are worldly-wise contributors to any community lucky enough to have them.
- If we think things are moving in the wrong direction, we can do something about it! There’s an African proverb that inspires me: “If you want to go far, go alone; if you want to go fast, go together.” South Florida is no stranger to corruption. Facing an entrenched system of funny business at work, Alice gives up. She quits her job. When she suspects the management of her condo of similar shenanigans, she stops running. She joins forces with her neighbors to fight back. I won’t spoil the ending for you. The point is we all have the power to speak up, and we are most effective in numbers. We have to work together to create the world we want and need.
- It’s easier to learn when we’re laughing. We live in trying times. I don’t know about you, but I find myself drawn to comedy these days. I made the book funny because I wanted to give readers an escape. I made it funny because humor can get a point across without preaching. The last thing readers need right now is a lecture.
“…through cooperation and teamwork. Alice in Condoland is a humorous, tongue-in-cheek analysis of how a society rights itself.”
A woman named Shelah wrote the above words in her Amazon review. We take what we need from the books we read. Some have found my novel “laugh-out-loud funny.” Some have cried reading its one sad chapter. And at least one reader took away exactly what I was thinking when I wrote it. For me, that is enough.