A social-climbing sociopath from Michigan manipulates rich Manhattan relatives—and everyone else—to get what she wants in Dunlop’s second novel (Losing the Light, 2015, etc.).
Laila is a 23-year-old dental hygienist in Grosse Pointe,
Michigan, engaged to marry the dentist she works for. Her father died years
earlier, and she doesn't know much about his side of the family. When her mother
dies, Laila's paternal cousins show up at the funeral, and she's thrilled to
discover that they're wealthy New Yorkers—twins Nora and Leo and their older
sister, Liberty. Two years later, divorced from her husband, she moves to New
York. She's found a stash of letters to her mother from her paternal
grandfather that implies an affair between them, which might explain Laila’s
parents’ banishment to the hinterlands before her birth. Now Laila wants to
reconnect with her family, and family money. Slightly dim Nora invites her to
stay in her Tribeca penthouse. Laila is happy to be Nora’s “Pygmalion-like project,” complete with a
new wardrobe from Bergdorf Goodman. Former model Liberty, more serious and
intellectual and less social than her siblings, finds Laila an internship at
the prominent literary agency where she works. Knowing she’s beautiful, Laila
makes the most of it. She dumps the famous novelist who falls madly in love
with her and heads to Mustique with a ruthless British billionaire who sends
her packing when she gets drunk with some hippie strangers. Meanwhile she has a
series of tawdry sexual encounters with Cameron, Liberty's best friend's
brother, who is also carrying on a very proper courtship with Liberty,
encounters that don’t end after Laila moves in with real estate mogul’s son
Blake Katz (a too-obvious take on Jared Kushner). For a self-described “skilled
chameleon,” Laila makes a lot of self-destructive decisions.
Dunlop’s attempt to combine the tone of Patricia Highsmith with the cast of Sex and the City comes across as rancid, not rakish.