In this novel, a dime-store cashier’s life overturns when she becomes an assistant to Marilyn Monroe for eight days.
It’s 1958, and Penny Parker, 20-something, is working the cash register at the Cornet Five & Dime when she gets the news: She’s won a random drawing to assist Marilyn Monroe, who’s in San Diego shooting Some Like It Hot at the city’s famous Hotel del Coronado. Penny loves the movies and their promise of adventure and glamor, but she doesn’t long for stardom or beauty. Penny criticizes herself for being fat and believes she’d be lucky to have an ordinary life, “a husband, a home and a family of my own making,” along with a “best, best, best girlfriend.” To her surprise, Penny hits it off well with the moody actress. They have many chats and several adventures off set: prepping Penny for a date with handsome widower Steele Wright, whose young son Penny saves from drowning; going on a cross-dressed night on the town with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis; and facing down a psychotic stalker who’s after Marilyn—a story the public can never know. But supernatural help is on their side, including two ghosts, a Ouija board, and a fortuneteller. In between and afterward, Penny has revelations about herself, her often difficult family, and Frankie Holland, a childhood friend who works with her at the dime store. Lentz (Blossom on the Road of Dreams, 2017, etc.) offers a well-judged blend of romance, wish fulfillment, glamor, suspense, and the paranormal. It’s fun to see the filming of a classic movie from behind the scenes, and wisecracking, down-to-earth Penny is a good contrast to Marilyn’s sensitive fragility. The pacing is problematic, with a dangerous confrontation getting resolved long before the ending; the final chapters, important as they are to the story, feel somewhat anticlimactic. The text is generally well-researched, though dialogue can sound overly contemporary: “You know, karma’s only a bitch if you are.”
An entertaining fantasy with a few missteps.