In this novel, an anxiety-ridden young woman finds new friends and inner resources after an apartment fire forces her to accept a neighbor’s hospitality.
Prudence Anderson—“just Pru”—25, unemployed, has just moved to Los Angeles. She’s a tall, big-boned size 16, as she tells us on Page 1. (Although the average American woman wears a 14, readers are to understand that Pru naturally considers herself too large.) As this novel opens, Pru is hitting every lonely-girl cliché: scraping ice cream off her flannel nightgown with a potato chip while watching TV with her cat. That’s when the fire starts. She and the cat escape, but the apartment is uninhabitable. Luckily, her young, cool neighbor Ellen, a playwright and director, offers to put them up. Home-schooled, shy and overprotected, Pru has a raft of anxieties; the death of her beloved therapist has made even driving her car a challenge. But in helping Ellen at the theater, Pru finds she has something to contribute—and in Adam, a handsome germophobe neighbor, she finds someone who gets her. Pru fights to resist her parents’ belittling bid to crush her independence. The Cinderella story is familiar enough, and some matters are made almost ridiculously easy for Pru; a vacationing neighbor with a huge closet of glam clothes wears Pru’s size and doesn’t mind sharing. But Pfeffer (The Wedding Cake Girl, 2012, etc.) makes wry use of the tropes by having Pru call them out from her favorite TV shows. For example, she’s wary of Blake, a charismatic actor and bad-boy romantic choice, because he reminds her of “Count Randall Blackstone, a scalawag of noble birth” from a TV series. Pfeffer also adds emotional layers; Blake is more complicated than he seems. Pru’s anxieties are genuinely crippling, and though Pru begins with a taste for the “heart-warming and inspirational,” by the end she appreciates Ellen’s dark, grim play.
Psychological seriousness adds depth to this romantic coming-of-age tale.