Author: Steven Rowley
Source: from publisher for review
Summary: I enjoyed this heartwarming story, with fun dialogue and convincing relationships. I’d love to see it as a movie!
“After years of struggling as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally gets his big break when his novel sells to an editor at a major publishing house: Jackie Kennedy. Jackie, or Mrs. Onassis as she’s known in the office, has fallen in love with James’s candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. With her shrewd drive and intuition, Jackie pushes James to write an authentic ending, encouraging him to head home to confront the truth about his relationship with his mother. But when a long-held family secret is revealed, he realizes his editor may have had a larger plan that goes beyond the page…” (source)
One of the things I loved most about this book was the dialogue. It didn’t feel completely believable to me. Instead it felt like movie dialogue. It conveyed real emotions, but it was sometimes almost too witty to be real. The witty dialogue and the fictional author’s internal monologue were funny enough to make his occasional awkwardness endearing. Usually I find that a character being too awkward simply makes me feel unpleasantly, vicariously embarrassed. Here, it made his character relatably fallible .
The choice to have Jackie Kennedy as the author’s editor added a few things to the story. It gave us some humorous moments. It made me feel more emotional about the time she took to form a connection with the writer, when she had so many other demands on her attention. And it also made the book feel more surreal and cinematic to me. I enjoyed the cinematic quality of the dialogue and Jackie’s character. I think this story could make a wonderful, heartwarming movie.
Interestingly, despite not always finding the dialogue believable, I found the (real) author’s portrayal of different relationships extremely convincing. I was emotionally invested in the (fictional) author’s relationship with his partner, his mother, and with Jackie. The flaws, the muddle of happy and sad moments, in these relationships made them more believable. Seeing the author work on those relationships throughout the book was satisfying and touching. I thought the device of having him write a novel that dealt with his most challenging relationship was extremely effective. It enabled him to obsessively focus on his relationship with his mother without making the reader watch him just sit around and obsess. Instead, he works on his novel and with his novel for impetus, has some tough conversations a long time in the making. It even made me cry a bit at the end, which I consider a sign of a good novel.