Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Helen of Pasadena by Lian Dolan

Helen of Pasadena by Lian Dolan
256 pages
Published November 2010 by Prospect Park Publishing
Source: the publisher for participation in the Manic Mommies Book Club discussion

Helen Fairchild's year has not gotten off to a good start. Oh sure, she lives a life of privilege in her "forever" house, but her pillar-of-the-community husband, Merritt, has just been killed at the Rose Bowl parade.  By a panda float.  Just the night before he had confided to Helen that he was leaving her for another woman so to say that Helen is not entirely grief stricken would be an understatement. The day after the funeral Helen receives another shock when her lawyer, and Merritt's best friend, breaks the news to Helen that Merritt, financial guru, had managed to lose nearly all of their money as well as that of his clients.

Now Helen is faced with the fact that she is going to have to start life all over again.  She's just not sure how.  She has always regretted not finishing that master's degree before she married Merritt and now it turns out that all of the hundreds of hours of volunteering and organizing school and charity events just don't amount to much in the job market.  If she sells the house, the artwork and most of the furniture, Helen just may have enough money to send her son to the private high school he has to attend.  Pretty quickly Helen learns just how much she can count on her very wealthy mother-in-law for help--not at all.

Fortunately Helen knows people and knows people who know people.  Soon she's got the best real estate agent in town and a part-time job for the next few months, working for the gorgeous Patrick O'Neill, archaeologist extraordinaire.  Throw in a couple of great friends and strength she never knew she had and Helen just might do more than survive.  She might just find the happiness that's been lacking in her life for a very long time.

Those of you familiar with Lian Dolan will not be surprised to find out that this book is humorous and smart.  While Dolan doesn't break any new ground with Helen of Pasadena as far as the plot is concerned, she does take take traditional chick-lit (or mom-lit as one reviewer on the Barnes & Noble site called it) and give it some depth and brains.  Helen does not just flounder along following Merritt's death, despite the fact that she often feels that way.  She is, after all, an intelligent woman even if life has just thrown her a major curve ball.  It's obvious that Dolan is familiar with the Pasadena area and soon the reader feels right at home.  You may not mingle with the same kind of monied crowd that Helen does, but you do know these people.

I did think that Helen did fall for Patrick a little too quickly but this being chick-lit, it's to be expected.  And after the dull life she and Merritt had, despite all of their money and possessions, you really can't help but cheer for her.

If you aren't familiar with Lian Dolan, check out her blog, The Chaos Chronicles, and her podcast by the same name, which is recorded in her bedroom closet.  I can't wait to participate with the other Manic Mommies next week when we'll be discussing this book with Ms. Dolan!


  1. This book sounds a little like the zany chicklit that I like, and I have to admit that your summary paragraph pulled me right in. I am glad to hear you enjoyed it so much and that it was a fun read. I am going to have to add this one to my list. Thanks for the great review!

  2. I saw this book somewhere else and thought it sounded great and your review confirms that. I love a good chicklit book once in a while. Glad you enjoyed it so much - I'm adding it to my list!

  3. It is an excellent read. Very true to life!