A light blue book cover with illustrations of a small, white elephant, a lamp, a tennis racket, some books, a shoe, and a mug

White Elephants: Yard Sales, Relationships, and Finding What Was Missing

by Katie Haegele Author

White elephants are the odd, old, and discarded things that end up at yard sales and flea markets—and Katie Haegele loves them all. Well, an awful lot of them, anyway. She lives a few blocks from the house she grew up in, and every summer she and her mother scour the neighborhood tag sales, looking for treasure. In this unusual, touching memoir, she chronicles the places they go and the things they find there, describing every detail in her singular, charming voice. In the end she finds more than just ugly table lamps and frilly aprons, ultimately discovering a real friendship with her mother, a deeper connection to her father, whose death left a hole in her life—and even a bit of romance.

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Read an interview with author Katie Haegele on our blog.

Comments & Reviews


"White Elephants is also about a boy named Joe, who loves what Katie loves, and about a power outage after a storm in Nova Scotia, and about swimming in your underwear, and about getting past the migraine. It's earthy and near in its language, a conversation Katie has, a book so small and lovingly made that you can hold it in the palm of your hand."

Beth Kephart Books


"In White Elephants: On Yard Sales, Relationships, and Finding What Was Missing, we get to know the cast of characters Katie Haegele encounters in her adventures sorting through neighborhood castoffs. Via intimate, relatable writing we also get to know Haegele, whose observations and ruminations are astute and, at times, hilarious."

— Suzanne Lindgren, Utne Reader, Nov-Dec 2012


There is so much more to White Elephants than weatherworn wares. Much like dusty rummage sale finds can feel like home, this book is a surprising gem. I’m already looking forward to re-reading it.


Less like a book and more like a letter from a friend, a friend who knows all about the art of the rummage and the nuances of reviewing yard sales. It's a truly joyful read but also tinged with sadness and grief, in the way happiness is in real life. When you relate to another person, they have history: an amalgamation of grief, nostalgia, pain, and also happiness. This book will stay in my life for a long time.


Humorous descriptions of the people she encounters and the stuff they're either buying or parting with. White Elephants is also about relationships and community (Katie still lives in the town she grew up in, just down the street from the house she grew up in.) The last section, "Yard Sale Season Four," sees Katie embarking on a new relationship that might take her away from all of these things. You can read White Elephants for tips on which sales might be best for finding used books or records, clothing or accessories. You won't be disappointed if you do, but read it for a story about loss, family and the comfort old things and you will be rewarded in kind by this well-written, heartfelt memoir. Now that's bargain!


"quirky, revealing, and most definitely unique, [Haegele's] distinctive, seemingly artless, and nakedly honest voice draws readers into her memoir—so what if they find themselves adrift in a sea of other people's discarded junk? . . . the book evokes the solidity of the objects that Haegele and her mother (and sometimes her sister) discover, implicitly contrasting them with her longing for the adult relationship she and her father never got to have. . . may make many readers nostalgic for neighborhoods they left long ago, or for parents gone for decades. Besides, who can resist a sale?"