Reality queen Frankel expands her brand with a roman à clef.
Recent NYU graduate Faith Brightstone, determined to make it as an actress, leaves Manhattan for Los Angeles. Reluctantly welcomed by her distant father, she befriends his live-in girlfriend Brooke, who introduces Faith to the L.A. club scene. There follows an episodic, summary-heavy narration of Faith’s encounters with men, old and young, most of whom do nothing to advance her career or enliven her love life. The exception is Vince Beck, a sexy producer with an Aussie accent, but, unsurprisingly, he turns out to be married. After two stints as personal assistant to the petty tyrants that are so much a staple of Hollywood literature (in a perhaps subliminal nod to Sunset Boulevard, one of Faith’s jobs ends when a scriptwriter is found dead in her employer’s pool), Faith cannot get a part—her weight, normal everywhere else, is chubbette-grade in California. Embarking, with her cheerfully bulimic roommate, on a starvation diet, she gets skinny then finally gets cast—in a soft porn flick. So much for Hollywood dreams. Part two finds Faith back in Manhattan five years later. She’s turned her obsession with weight into a promising small business. Her over-the-top repartee and entrepreneurial chops garner the attention of the producers of Domestic Goddess, a cable reality TV show hosted by Sybil Matthews, a fictional avatar of Martha Stewart, only more diabolical. The remainder of the book chronicles the usual reality show indignities as contestants are ritually humiliated and eliminated, challenge by challenge. Sybil already has Faith in her sights, since Faith has some dirt on a fellow contestant and a history with the show’s executive producer. What will the home and garden diva do when she finds out her own son is Faith’s latest club conquest?
Although the writing is competent, this novel illustrates the main difficulty posed by “reality-based” fiction: the inherent tedium of unedited real life, however glitzy the surroundings.