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by Karen Karbo

Pub Date: May 9th, 1991
ISBN: 0-399-13597-9
Publisher: Putnam

 In her highly praised debut, Karbo told the bittersweet stories of Russian ÇmigrÇs in Los Angeles (Trespassers Welcome Here, 1989); this is a more lighthearted ramble through the City of Angels, part Hollywood satire, part domestic comedy. Mouse FitzHenry, a dedicated documentary filmmaker, is shooting a tribal wedding ceremony in Zaire with her British boyfriend Tony Cheatham when she gets a call from sister Mimi in L.A.: their mother Shirl is having brain surgery after being hit by a restaurant ceiling fan. Sixteen years before, Mouse left for Africa after Mimi stole her boyfriend (and fellow-filmmaker), the sexy half-Mexican Ivan Esparza. (Their sibling rivalry simmers all through the novel.) Mouse returns stateside, with Tony. She promises the recuperating but teary Shirl that they will marry, although she has twice rejected Tony (too safe, too decent). Then at a screening of their doc about a Kenyan pickpocket, Mouse runs into Ivan again (``This is phenomenal, Mouse. Really very very good shit''). She agrees to coproduce a film about her wedding; finally, a reason for getting married! But Tony will not cooperate; unbeknownst to Mouse, he is peddling a ``true-life'' African screenplay that climaxes with a Mouse/Tony mountaintop wedding. Meanwhile, a parallel storyline has Mimi taking sweet revenge on boyfriend Ralph (during his How to Write a Blockbuster class) after he returns to his ``almost ex-wife.'' Two set-piece scenes have Tony calling it quits with Mouse at a Malibu fund- raiser (Stars Against Ivory), and Mimi clobbering Mouse at her shower, while Ivan's camera keeps rolling. Karbo can goose Hollywood amusingly, but so can a score of other writers; where she excels is in spotlighting the neglected, whether displaced Russians or documentary filmmakers. A tighter focus on the latter might have transformed a novel that, for all its offbeat charm and funny moments, is too slack, diffuse, and underplotted to pull a reader through.