A debut novel that takes an acerbic look at the cultural shortcomings of Los Angeles.
Attorney Courtney Hamilton (who shares a name with the author) describes her city with gleefully snarky remarks. Houses in Brentwood, she says, look like “Embass[ies]” and are no longer the homes that “once housed families with modest dreams.” In fact, no one in Courtney’s world strives for modesty. Her mother, Julia, a self-described “divorce engineer,” frequently steals her daughter’s clothes, and Courtney’s manipulative therapist, Roberta, gets “a new Bentley every two years.” Her friend Marcie is critical to the point of cruelty, and a teacher named Genie has been stalking Courtney ever since Courtney was a student at art school. But as challenging as these relationships are, Courtney’s romantic life is even worse. Her two ex-fiances, Andre and Frank, are so objectively terrible that it’s hard to imagine why she would ever speak to them. Andre, she says, “couldn’t control his relentless need to be the center of everything,” and needy, indecisive Frank “had been ruined by therapy.” Occasionally, the characters shift from being comically mean to downright abusive; for example, when someone tries to break into Courtney’s house, she calls her friend Bettina, who declines to help, saying, “We just sat down to dinner.” Many of her friends have such similar personalities that they might have been merged into fewer characters, but Hamilton makes sure that all their physical descriptions are wonderfully distinct. Courtney is a constant victim of unkindness, and readers will surely understand her dismay; however, they may chafe at her negativity as she enumerates the things she “hates”: book groups, fake hugs, tea, celebrities, laundry, “the sound of bohemian pretension” and therapy (although she continues to keep her expensive appointments). Readers may start to wonder why the educated, skilled Courtney remains in a place that causes her such distress. At one point she asks, “[D]on’t you think that no company is better than bad company?”—but she doesn’t seem to subscribe to this idea herself.
A hilarious, scathing tale of LA life.