By Janelle Brown
Published May 2009 by Random House
On the day Paul Miller's pharmaceutical company goes public, his wife, Janice, who has spent the day preparing for a celebration, receives a letter from Paul informing her their marriage is over. Meanwhile, their eldest daughter, Margaret, has been dumped by her actor boyfriend and her magazine has gone under leaving her deeply in debt. When Margaret finds out about the pending divorce, she heads home, ostensibly to help her mother and sister deal with the situation. But by the time she arrives her mother has developed a crystal meth addiction and her 14-year-old sister, Lizzie, has become the school slut. The Miller women bunker down in their home as they deal with divorce lawyers, debt collectors, drug addiction and the country club set.
This book is over the top in every way. Everything that can go wrong does, but so much of it is the fault of the Miller women that it was hard to feel sorry for them as they stumbled forward. It was hard for me to empathize with Janice, a woman living in a 5200-sq-foot home, driving a Porsche, and playing tennis at an exclusive country club who envies the neighbors whose fortunes have outpaced the Millers, although I know there are a lot of Janices in the world. Paul, who on top of the divorce and it's very bad timing, was also having an affair with Janice's best friend, was the stereotypical business take-no-prisoners type of guy. Only Lizzie really captured my sympathy as both her parents, and even her much older sister, were so wrapped up in their own concerns that Lizzie was, more or less, left to her own devices.
Kirkus Reviews calls this a "bitter comedy" but I didn't find much of it very comic. And, as with so many other 400 plus page books, I felt that the story sometimes got repetitive and would have benefited by a reduction of 75-100 pages. Brown does manage to skewer the wealthy suburban lifestyle with great wit.