In her first work since her 1999 debut, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing
, Melissa Bank delivers another coming-of-age story whose heroine navigates life in New York City with the grace of a giraffe standing for the first time. The litany of Sophie Applebaum's faux pas are impressive: She embarrasses herself at a painting class when she overendows her portrait of the nude male model, she oversleeps the morning after being reprimanded for her tardiness at work, and she manages to dress inappropriately whether she's going to a bat mitzvah or the beach.
Bank's casual writing style and snappy dialogue make Sophie's misadventures in womanhood both funny and emotionally resonant. Whether she's struggling to hang on to a job or grappling with a proposal from a man who's not The One, readers will identify with the challenges she faces and often chuckle at how she handles them.
If it all sounds familiar, though, it's because Bank uses the same young-woman, big-city framework seen in her first novel—a hit that helped define chick lit. Fans will be happy to know that in her latest Bank balances humor and poignance within the genre's format to deliver a satisfying read. But anyone growing weary of the Bridgets and Sophies of the literary world maybe disappointed to learn that this talented author missed an opportunity to steer the genre in a new direction.
By Johnette Howard
Chris Evert burst onto the tennis scene in 1971, putting fizz into the fusty sport just as female players began pushing for parity. In 1975 Navratilova's defection from the former Czechoslovakia added Cold War tension, while her open-secret romances with women opened the door for gay athletes. Howard nimbly alternates Evert and Navratilova's stories like a riveting baseline rally, making a convincing case that their friendship and intertwined careers—they faced each other 80 times—constitute sport's "greatest and longest-running individual rivalry." For tennis fans, this book is as gripping as the action at center court.
The Starter Wife
Curious about the love lives of the rich and famous? Gigi Levangie Grazer, who's married to movie producer Brian Grazer, shares the wealth in her third novel—this one about the ups and downs of Hollywood marriage.
WHAT'S A STARTER WIFE? A starter wife is the one thrown out for the trophy wife. She's the woman who works to put her husband through med or law school and then gets dumped at the first sight of extensions and silicone.
WHO'S A HIGH-PROFILE EXAMPLE? Ivana Trump. Need I say more?
WHICH ARE YOU? I had a starter marriage to a lovely man. And then I ate him. Now I'm a trophy wife, but I doubt my husband would call me that.
DOESN'T ANYONE IN HOLLYWOOD STAY MARRIED? A lot of men [in the industry] don't want wives; they want assistants. I know a married producer who only feels close to two women: his 28-year-old assistant and his daughter.
DO STARTER WIVES HAVE SECOND ACTS? Put it this way: Jennifer Aniston
is not going to have trouble getting dates and falling in love again. And I'm pulling for her.
A Scotsman who came to the U.S. in 1964, Harry Benson is famous for his photos of celebs (Donny and Marie Osmond, above). Here, portraits from his new book, Harry Benson's America
Benson captures a deadpan Steve Martin in 1978.
IF YOU LIVED HERE, I'D KNOW YOUR NAME by Heather Lende
A newspaper columnist in Alaska, Lende offers touching stories about neighbors with whom she shares wedding celebrations, potluck dinners, tears for missing fishermen-all the joys and sorrows of family life in a remote town.
ANTHROPOLOGY: 101 TRUE LOVE STORIES by Dan Rhodes
Clever concept, well executed: These quick-take fictional tales (101 words each) about love and loss are witty, often wicked and above all, fun. Read them to your squeeze.
ONE SUNDAY MORNING by Amy Ephron
Ephron maintains the suspense through this evocative, smartly paced novel of romantic intrigue among the members of New York's high society at the dawn of the Jazz Age.
COACH by Michael Lewis
Subtitled "Lessons on the Game of Life," this brief, heartfelt memoir by the bestselling author of Moneyball
is a tribute to the high school baseball coach who helped him learn to be a winner.
- Lisa Ingrassia,
- Sue Corbett.