Brown’s fiction debut is a bitter comedy about divorce in California’s Silicon Valley, where apparently men are even more ruthless in marriage than in business.
The same day his pharmaceutical company stock rises meteorically, Paul Miller sends his wife, via messenger, a typed note letting her know that he is leaving her for her tennis partner. Forty-nine-year-old Janice is shocked. She and Paul have been married since she became pregnant in college with their first daughter, Margaret, now 29, and she gave up her dreams to become Paul’s perfect wife—or at least a smashing cook and tennis player. The kind of controlled suburban matron who keeps herself and her home in immaculate condition, Janice doesn’t have a clue about her daughters. After spending most of her childhood overweight and unpopular, 14-year-old Lizzie has recently lost weight and become more popular—or at least busy—since she started having sex with any boy who asks. Margaret, who moved to Los Angeles with her actor boyfriend several years ago, much to her parents’ dismay, has driven the boyfriend away and racked up close to $100,000 in debt running a feminist magazine that even she knows is pretentious twaddle. Learning of the impending divorce, Margaret rushes home not to care for her distraught mother but to escape her creditors. Meanwhile, a distraught Janice starts drinking heavily and buying methamphetamines from the pool guy. Then Margaret discovers that Paul is trying to screw Janice out of her share of his wealth—he even attempts bribing Margaret to testify against her mother in court—and she is galvanized into action. Meanwhile, Lizzie, who has joined a Christian youth group and signed an abstinence oath, realizes she is pregnant. Janice and her daughters bicker and keep secrets from each other but eventually they unite against Paul, who, like most of the male characters, is a total jerk.
Desperately contrived, but the bitchiness is fun in small doses.