September 1, 2005
like, hard to get into the plot and care
The Starter Wife, by Gigi Levangie Grazer, Simon & Schuster, 2005, 368
This is the story of
Gracie Peters, a mousy little writer making a meager living until Prince
Charming, in the form of Kenny Pollack, an up-and-coming movie producer
for a major Hollywood studio, sweeps Gracie off her feet and takes her
away. To Brentwood Drive.
Gracie Peters becomes
Gracie Pollock, Wife Of. She is Botox-ed, over-tanned, boob-jobbed and
completely absorbed in the fabulous, insipid life of being a Hollywood
Wife, until she is unceremoniously dumped via cell phone on the eve of
her 10th wedding anniversary.
“I’ve been Cruised!”
It is then that Gracie
Pollock, Wife Of, becomes Gracie Pollock, the Starter Wife. She seeks
refuge in Malibu, surrounded by her friends, a swishy interior decorator
and a neurotic, habitually dieting Wife Of who is certain she’s about to
be cast aside as well. Gracie struggles to get her life together, while
plotting to trap herself another rich man so she can still attend
cocktail parties and shop on Rodeo Drive. Does Gracie get her man?
Author Gigi Levangie
Grazer has lived in the Hollywood machine, and her slick prose
communicates this quite skillfully. Through the eyes of the book’s
jilted heroine, Grazer mercilessly skewers the bleached-blond, surface-y
society of L.A. The book is at its satirical best when Gracie describes
the bizarre rituals of self-maintenance she must endure to stay
fails to communicate much in the way of character development, thoughts,
feelings and motivations. Everything has an air of fluffy sitcom strife,
rather than any emotional impact. If Gracie hates this lifestyle so
much, why is she so determined to get it back after Kenny breaks up with
her? It doesn’t make sense. We don’t really get inside anyone’s head
enough to understand their motivations or real feelings about anything.
This may be intentional, to prove that these Hollywood types are nothing
more than caricatures, so whacked out on Zoloft and Scientology that
they’ve actually lost their ability to feel, but it doesn’t make for
It’s hard to feel pity
or sadness for Gracie, who was college educated and even managed to get
a publishing deal writing children’s books before Kenny came along and
“saved” her. She’s perfectly capable of supporting herself and her one
child even without Kenny’s millions, but she spends a good deal of time
wallowing around in self pity, mourning the death of her high-profile
lifestyle more than the death of the actual marriage.
Worse yet, the author
crosses the fictional with the real world when she chooses to have Kenny
dump Gracie for none other than Britney Spears — who, as we are all
painfully aware, is married and with child at the present. This creates
a problem of believability within the framework of the novel. Why not
have Kenny dump Gracie for a fictional character who greatly resembles
Spears? It was a brave choice, but it doesn’t pay off for the reader.
And finally, there’s
the little matter of Gracie’s new Prince Charming, Sam. He’s a homeless,
hunky surfer dude who rescues Grace from drowning while she’s seeking
refuge from the Hollywood gossip machine, hiding out in Malibu. Turns
out that Sam really is a Prince Charming in disguise. This last section
of the book seems too contrived, even for a Hollywood fairy tale.
Overall, this novel is
mildly entertaining for its lampooning of the self-obsessed,
navel-gazing twits who live the beautiful life in Hollywood, but the
story and characters — including Ms. Spears — are too superficial to
warrant much investment from the reader. Hopefully, Grazer can balance
out the glamorous ambience with some actual character and plot
development in her next project.