Unlucky-in-love Manhattan art conservationist faces her biggest fear when called upon to deliver a speech at a family event.
Despite having one of the coolest jobs in the universe—restoring paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—Hope McNeill has a low-grade case of the blues. Woefully mismatched with her conservative hedge-fund-manager boyfriend Evan, and distracted by a debilitating crush on an attractively aloof (and spoken for) colleague, she feels, at 31, like a passive observer in her own life. Her greatest source of comfort, other than repeatedly watching her favorite Zoloft commercial on TV, is escaping to Central Park’s Pug Hill. A bucolic gathering spot for owners of the breed, Pug Hill stands for all things good and positive to Hope, and the fact that she goes there without a dog of her own helps push the point that she is due for a change. And change she gets when her parents ask her to give a speech at their 40th anniversary party on Long Island. Paralyzed by even the thought of public speaking, but not wanting to let her family down, she says yes. As if that pressure was not enough, Hope’s older, prettier, spoiled sister Darcy will also be there with her beau, C.P. (Crested Possum), an affected young man with Native-American pretensions who is trying to convince Darcy to move to a commune. To prepare herself, Hope enrolls in a public-speaking class at The New School. There she bonds with her eccentric classmates, as well as the requisite hot guy, and comes to terms with some of the neuroses and bad habits that have kept her yearning for far too long. Along the way, she learns to forgive her family and herself and finds her confidence. Pace (If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend, 2005) has invented an emotionally complex and winning heroine, even if the long, loving descriptions of pugs might try the reader’s patience.
A remarkably sweet and affecting tale of inner growth.