By Sonya Sones
Harper - Fiction in Verse
AFTER AN ARGUMENT WITH HUBBY
us hasn't passed
a vengeful hour thinking
of ways to spend the insurance
p. 77 of The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, ARC (some changes may have been made to the final print version)
Without reaching the point of reviewing, I've managed to talk at least three friends into reading The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, a sometimes-sad, often-funny, warm and witty book about being a middle-aged woman that is written entirely in verse.
Holly is about to turn 50. Her daughter is applying for distant colleges (none of them within even 1,000 miles of home), her husband may be having an affair, her mother is going through a health crisis and Holly has to deal with the doctor's annoying way of using humor to avoid honesty. Holly's reproductive years are officially behind her and the horrors of menopause are in full swing.
While waiting in line at the grocery store,
I glance at the cover of Glamour and see:
"Happy and Sexy at 20, 30, and 40!"
Wait just a hotter-than-thou minute!
I think to myself.
What about all of us happy, sexy fifty-year-olds?
I gnash my teeth
and flip the magazine over on the rack
so that the cover's facing in.
A second later,
when it's my turn to pay,
the buff young guy working the register
does something as unexpected
as a flying pig:
he winks at me.
Did you see that, Glamour?
He winked at me!
Who's happy and sexy now, huh? Huh?
I press my money into the hunky cashier's hand
with a seductive smile
and a flirty flutter of my lashes.
He gives me the once over,
then flashes me a sly grin and offers me something
that no man's ever offered me before:
You cannot help but love Holly. When her concerns start to really burden her, she becomes a bit of a Debbie Downer and you're afraid that nothing's going to improve, but then suddenly she takes charge, gets a grip, finds out the truth about this and that and you'll have laughed and cried yourself through one of the most genuine, touching, funny, poignant reads.
I'm going to skip the usual like/dislike parts because the only problem with the book is actually something you'll end up liking. Things just keep getting worse, incriminating evidence building up against a secretive husband, mother going downhill fast, teenager no longer the little girl Holly wants her to be. Holly is miserable and because you care about her, you're miserable with her. And, then, slowly she realizes her world is a good one.
The bottom line:
Highly recommended. A roller coaster emotional ride that's so fresh and unique and funny that you'll probably shove it into the hands of your friends, like I did -- especially if you're nearing 50 and can relate. I laughed, I cried, I passed my copy around. When my friend Lisa handed the book back to me, she said, "I loved this book! And, I'm only 45!" The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is great fun. I think anyone can enjoy and appreciate it, except perhaps teenagers or maybe a few young, upwardly mobile folks who refuse to think so far ahead, but those who like to read anything will likely still love it because it's a good story. The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is definitely a new favorite of mine, a 5/5. Be patient when Holly gets really whiny. I promise the ending is worth the journey. There is some graphic sex talk, so I'll add a family warning. I don't think it's likely any kid will pick the book up and keep reading it, though, to be honest.
Gushy thanks to HarperCollins for the Advance Review Copy!
It's not Friday, but it seems like it's been too long since the girls made an appearance, so here's a shot of one of my little companions. When I sit at the computer, Isabel tucks herself under or around the monitor, sometimes watching action outside the window, sometimes dozing, often batting at pens, my watch, barrettes and anything else I leave lying about on the desk. Fiona usually stays on the floor (the treadmill mat is her favorite hangout), but she's also nearby unless she has something crucial to attend to.
Sometimes I'll just reach under the monitor and rub Isabel's cute little nose or forehead. She's very tolerant of me.
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