After a breakup, a Manhattan gallery owner takes in tenants at her West Village brownstone.
Francesca, 35, has to admit that her future with live-in boyfriend Todd is nil. But after Todd moves out, how to pay the mortgage on the old house they were rehabbing on Charles Street, and prop up the failing finances of the gallery they once co-owned? Francesca’s father, a famous artist, invests in the gallery, and Francesca advertises for roommates. Her mother, Thalia, a 60-something jetsetter, is too busy hunting husband No. 6 to help with anything beyond undermining her daughter’s self-esteem. Soon the house is occupied by a group that fast becomes Francesca’s surrogate family: Eileen, a 20-something transplant from San Diego, is obsessed with meeting men on the Internet. Marya, a newly widowed famous food writer, needs a New York pied-à-terre and, often aided by flirtatious French chef Charles-Edouard, cooks fabulous meals in Francesca’s tiny kitchen. Chris, a graphic designer, is shell-shocked by struggles with his ex-wife, Kim, who managed to get joint custody of son Ian despite the fact that she’s a heroin addict. Ian, a third grader, twice saved his mother from overdosing. Ian relishes his brief visits at Charles Street, especially when Marya makes him Mickey Mouse pancakes. Eileen’s latest online conquest, Brad, a tattooed biker type, is obviously trouble, but her roommates’ respect for her privacy has disastrous consequences. After Kim lands in jail for manslaughter after a fellow addict ODs in Ian’s presence, Francesca learns Chris and his ex represented a failed merger of two of the nation’s most powerful political families. Chris, attracted by Francesca’s comparative normalcy, impulsively kisses her. Wouldn’t Thalia be thrilled to see her daughter reel in the scion of a dynasty more illustrious than the Kennedys? But Francesca insists they are just friends.Classic Steel, phoned in. Much repetitious ruminating and a stultifying, unmusical prose style too often obstruct the intended edgy escapism.