Hippo Manchester
September 1, 2005

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A non-Starter Wife

It’s, like, hard to get into the plot and care

By Michelle Saturley 

The Starter Wife, by Gigi Levangie Grazer, Simon & Schuster, 2005, 368 pages.

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!” she laments.

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?

Who cares?

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 youthful-looking.

Unfortunately, Grazer 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 compelling reading.

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.