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From Strauss (stories: The Joy of Funerals, 2003, etc.), a novel concerning a Manhattan Four Seasons manager who witnesses the alarmingly bleak lives of women (herself included) confronting the loss of youth.

Morgan, 32, is haunted by her sister Dale’s death from leukemia when both were children. She alone in her family appears to still mourn Dale, and she can’t get close to her mother, who cares only for conspicuous consumption and her clique of ladies who lunch. Morgan has seen her Uncle Marty, a prominent shrink, escorting female patients to rooms at the Midtown Four Seasons, where she’s division manager. Morgan’s inner emptiness—she’s just broken up with her too-dull, too-safe boyfriend Bernard—prompts her to take brief vacations on the wild side while at work. There’s the busboy she trysts with in the kitchen pantry. There are the hotel rooms she “inspects” at random, pilfering objects including an SM leather brace, which she finds oddly comforting to wear. Morgan encounters other women—guests, vendors, employees or clients of the Four Seasons—each of whom occupies her own section of the novel. Anne, a novice concierge, is obsessed with luck, charms and omens. Svelte, elegant Trish, adopted child of famous parents, struggles to distinguish herself, opening a gallery and hosting a weight-loss party for her BFF Olive, who, distressingly, is shedding Trish along with the extra pounds. Ellen, traumatized by two miscarriages, is baffled by the refusal of her husband and gynecologist to believe she’s several months pregnant. Mississippi native Franny, despite a lucrative career and a nice apartment, envies her blissfully coupled and child-blessed neighbors. Aging rocker Louise checks into the Four Seasons to detox. Trouble is, without coke, booze and pills, the space inside Lou’s head is as claustrophobic as her locked hotel room. Robin, a downtrodden younger sister, takes bizarre revenge on her manipulative sibling Vicki.

Despite some unpolished prose, these New York stories, utterly wrenching with pessimistic undercurrents, will remind some readers of Parker—as in Dorothy, not Sarah Jessica.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-184526-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2010