Inconsequential—and disappointing—second urban tale by Hiller (Morton Street, 1990), this revolving solely around the issue of whether it's better to love Manhattan or leave it. Laurie Simon is a native New Yorker, and as a book editor with a Greenwich Village apartment, two kids attending her own childhood public schools, and a cameraman/director husband, Michael, who adores her, Laurie feels she's living the good life in her hometown. The rub lies with Michael, who longs to try his luck in California by opening a production company there. His resentment at instead having to pass his years in hateful Manhattan has resulted in a constant, low-grade fury—and that anger has in turn translated into a chronic physical pain for Laurie that the couple refer to familiarly as her ``thing.'' When the pressure from Michael finally proves too much, Laurie gives up her job, sublets the apartment, and transports the family to Santa Monica. Laurie is not surprised at the homogenized strangeness of the West Coast, but she is taken aback as her chronic pain begins to fade with California-style therapy, and as a house with a pool turns out to be a pleasure to have around. The Simons begin to believe they might actually be happy—until teenaged son Andy flees back to his girlfriend in New York and an earthquake knocks a tree into the Simons' rented living room. Chastened, they follow Andy back east, where they find, to Laurie's relief, that the suburbs of Westchester offer the best of both worlds. Creating a procession of mundane problems for her characters, only to solve them before each chapter's end (Laurie's afraid to drive, but then she adapts; subletting the New York apartment might prove difficult, but instead proceeds without a hitch, etc.), Hiller fails to engage the reader emotionally or provide any kind of dramatic or comedic climax. A particularly cruel letdown, then, after such an entertaining debut.
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