THE BOOK REPORT: This One is Mine
Maria Semple’s first novel traces the paths of two protagonists: Violet, a burnt-out, used-to-be-cool-but-now-is-just-fat housewife of a very wealthy record label executive; and Sally, Violet’s diabetic sister-in-law who has relied on beauty and extreme materialism to float from one seemingly-eligible-bachelor-turned-loser to another in search of a perfect husband to support her high demand for entirely unnecessarily trendy fashion.
Themes of wealth, disparity, illness, parenthood, and marriage riddle this story of a not-quite broken family facing life’s highs and lows over a short period of time. Semple’s experience writing for popular television shows (including Arrested Development and Mad About You) certainly explains the well-paced unfolding plot. However, that same background might also explain why her characters are mostly confined to clichés. Rich, married Violet embarks on an affair with a hepatitis-C-laden junkie, while Sally’s most promising suitor ultimately reveals a flaw that despite glaring red flags, goes entirely unnoticed by Sally until the most critical moment. Furthermore, few, if any, of the characters can garner audience sympathy, which at times is likely to make this novel difficult to complete, as readers are likely to lose track of why they should care about the fate of the cheating overweight wife of a sold-out executive and his trophy-wife-bound manipulative sister.
That being said, the story flows well and is undoubtedly amusing over time. For readers (particularly fans of Jodi Picoult) looking for an easy-going, deeper-than-Danielle Steele beach read, Semple’s novel is guaranteed to please.