Chic lit meets shtick lit in—where else?—New York, New York.
Alice Vogel, 62, owns a high-fashion consignment boutique on the Upper East Side, speaks French to her mother and quotes Yeats. Alice is called the “Ice Maiden” by Nanny Wunderlich, 59, a widowed real-estate agent who dresses off the rack and supplies the comic kvetching. They’re forced together when their late friend Roberta leaves them keys to her safe-deposit box, where they find a mysterious love letter Nanny feels compelled to investigate. The letter is a transparent plot device that Volk (Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family, 2001, etc.) uses to bind her Jewish odd couple and create suspense while exploring their family relations, Nanny with her dead husband and beautiful unmarried daughter, Alice with her infirm mother and sexually eccentric husband. Like some Woody Allen films, the book is too much about New York—the designers and bistros, the prices of apartments, the smell of certain streets—and people who think of themselves as New Yorkers, as if the designation alone entitled them to the reader’s interest. With its late-life female bonding and a sweet lesbian finale, the novel may carry into Connecticut and New Jersey, but Volk, a former columnist for Newsday, is a predictable storyteller and smug stylist, as devoted to last season’s witticisms as her clothier is to the almost fashionable.
Volk’s protagonists always have the same lunch at Bergdorf’s, an easy-to-eat chopped salad; she serves up similar light fare.