A chick-lit tweak of the Dickens classic.
Caroline’s soul is dead, all right. Clicking down the streets of Manhattan or through the hallways of the fashion magazine where she works, she leaves a slime trail of contempt and superiority wherever she goes. It’s Christmas Eve, and she’s set to spend the holiday alone, gifting herself with free swag she’s acquired as an editor. But the day goes downhill fast: The woman whose so-last-season boots Caroline sniffed at in the elevator turns out to be her new boss, who swiftly fires her; she’s dumped by her therapist; she has zero prospects for a date on New Year’s Eve (not that anybody could meet her standards); and her mother is apparently spending the holiday in (horrors!) Branson, Mo. Smith (Love Monkey, 2004) spends ample time establishing just how shallow Caroline is while pinpointing the tiny ember of human sympathy inside her (e.g., she misses her father). But eventually, the Marley stand-in (a ditzy roommate) and those three ghosts arrive: Past (a cover model), present (the UPS guy) and future (that creepy old skeleton) paint a portrait of a needy, rude and shallow woman who’s destined to life in flyover country if she’s not careful. The novel is stuffed with snarky wisecracks, many of which are utterly groan-worthy (a combination SUV-Volkswagen, for example, is called a HumBug). But the bigger problem is that Smith spreads himself too thin—he’s trying to imagine a Gotham stuffed with quirky folks (most notably a Spoonerism-spouting place-kicker for the New York Jets), while trying to adhere to Dickens’s redemption-tale template, yet he strains to make sure Caroline doesn’t become too sickly-sweet. What’s left is a morality tale that tries not to get into all that messy morality stuff—Caroline eventually concedes that other people are worth her time and care, but she’s making darn sure she remains the center of attention.
The Scrooge is the same, but the message is muffled.