Amy Gallup, 60, hasn’t published a book in 20 years, and she’s settled into a quiet life with her beloved basset hound, Alphonse. None too excited about a newspaper interview she’s agreed to give, she trips, knocking herself out on the birdbath just hours before she’s scheduled to play the role of has-been local writer.
Oddly, she regains consciousness to see the reporter’s car pulling out of her driveway. In the emergency room later, she has the distinct pleasure of reading her own interview—an interview she evidently gave without the assistance of a conscious, rational mind. Amy’s cryptic, concussion-addled interview rejuvenates her career. Suddenly, her agent—chain-smoking, aggressive but kindly Maxine—is calling again, arranging appearances and pushing for new material. Her former writing students are back, too. After all, their crazed, knife-wielding former classmate (from Willett’s The Writing Class, 2008) is now safely behind bars. The collection of friends and opponents surrounding Amy are flat characters bedazzled with quirks, but that doesn’t quite make them quirky. Grudgingly, Amy goes on tour, battling wits with shrill, book-phobic radio hosts, twitter-bewitched moderators, new authors drunk on blogs and old authors drunk on scotch. Along the way, she confronts the demons of her past, including her buried grief for her late, gay husband, as well as her ambivalence about success. The skewering of the business of selling books—despite some hilarious scenes and Amy’s dry humor—gets repetitive as Amy tirelessly defends real writing and debunks virtual book launches. Amy is endearing, yet it is difficult to remain curious about a heroine whose only interest is writing.
Willett’s skill in crafting zany scenes and Amy’s acerbic wit are not enough to keep this novel afloat.