From the somber premise of a 40ish widow learning to cope with the loss of her husband, first novelist Shalet fashions a frothey comedy reminiscent of Neil Simon. Los Angeles seems an appropriate setting for the widow's wacky mishaps on first dates, first job interviews, and first job. She tries numerous tactics for dealing with grief: seeing two therapists simultaneously, taking trips to Israel and New York, indulging in affairs, and eventually beginning a brilliant career in advertising. ``I'm tired of being an adolescent widow!'' she proclaims after a romance with a married Swede who absconds with thousands of her dollars. All the while, she feels inhibited by the presence of her late husband, judging her and telling her what to do, as well as by internal negative voices she calls her ``elves,'' who are constantly chipping away at her limited self-esteem. Eventually she hits bottom, turning to drugs and alcohol in the thick of a major advertising campaign, only to reemerge predictably wiser, stronger, and finally done with grieving. The protagonist is addressed throughout by her nickname, ``Babe.'' Only on the last page, after her odyssey is complete and her lessons have been dutifully learned, does she reveal her true name, thus symbolically maturing and accepting her identity. Shalet's execution and pacing are notably smooth—indeed, the prose and development at times seem a little too slick, the insights facile. A ``lite,'' jaunty read that seeks to be both funny and moving at the same time. Unfortunately, many of its gags fall flat, and when the humor deflates, so does the emotion.
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