The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the examined life is no picnic either—not if you're a Carrie Fisher heroine. The good news is that the actress turned author of Postcards from the Edge and Surrender the Pink is back with another smart, edgy novel in which the angst is spiced with pungent wit.
In Delusions of Grandma, the quirky, unpredictable Cora Sharpe, a screenwriter and veteran of numerous star-crossed love affairs, is drawn to a man who is so different from the narcissists and control freaks she usually falls for that she's utterly perplexed. Ray is dependable, available and good-natured—an all-around Boy Scout in a grown man's body—and Cora hopes she'll "catch commitment from him like a cold." Theirs is an odd, poignant match bound by life (Cora's unexpected pregnancy), death (the passing of her old pal William, whom Cora and Ray usher through the final stages of AIDS) and glitzy Hollywood dinner parties.
Against the backdrop of Ray's steadiness and capacity for settling down—which, alas, turns out not to be contagious—Cora must find her true self so that she can create a real home for her unborn child. Her feistiness and intelligence are endearing, but sometimes she's too smart for her own good: The verbal riffs and clever comebacks have a way of sabotaging some of the more tender moments. Still, Cora's vulnerability bursts through in spite of herself, and we can't help rooting for her. By the time the baby comes, she's shifted into a new gear and the examined life starts being lived more fully. (Simon & Schuster, $22)