A successful Hollywood screenwriter’s attempt at dating becomes complicated by his profoundly spoiled daughter in this novel.
Eighteen long years have passed since Joe has had a date. The single father has been raising his daughter, Sofia, while nurturing a career as a top-dollar screenwriter. He has settled into a life of writing movie scripts, enjoying pizza and beer, and doting on his skittish, overindulged child. But success leaves a lot to be desired. Sofia was an awful teenager who was so disrespectful to her Bronx grandparents that they became estranged from her. She has moved out, and Joe is giving her money to support herself and take acting classes. Worryingly, Joe has some swollen lymph nodes, so he visits his doctor, fearing the worst. But there is a positive side to the incident, as Joe meets a striking nurse named Jennifer, a bright and charming transplant from Kentucky (“I couldn’t believe that this goddess, whose figure could re-energize a corpse, would be escorting me to radiology”). As the two go out for half-price margaritas, the ice age that is Joe’s love life begins to thaw. He is impressed with her career specializing in pediatric oncology, her thrift, and her authenticity. The two quickly fall in love, but there are soon problems with Sofia, who does not react well to Jennifer. Undaunted, Jennifer assures Joe that she can get his daughter back to her old self. As Joe suspects Sofia may be struggling with something more serious than just being self-centered, he asks her to move back home. At the same time, Jennifer moves in. The three quickly develop a new pattern, which could leave Joe sitting on the sidelines. Sciuto’s (Per Verse Vengeance, 2018, etc.) entertaining novel has a perfectly sympathetic protagonist whose relatively small Studio City world revolves around secure, familiar patterns that give Joe a comfortable but incomplete life. It’s a lighthearted tale in some ways, with playfulness and wit in good supply, but the addition of a pediatric oncology nurse gives the story added depth. While the narrative moves quickly, the lack of a clear central conflict becomes problematic. The characters’ lifestyle changes happen fairly early on, and the almost flat story arc makes the ending point seem randomly chosen.
An engaging tale about single fatherhood and a new love hampered by an underdeveloped plot.