Whiny sequel to the kvetchy What She Saw . . . (2000).
A decade after her college years, Phoebe Fine is still not happy—the not-so-burning question is, Why not? Raise your hand if you care. Okay, don’t. It’s all the same to Phoebe, who moves back to Whitehead, New Jersey, six miles southeast of Paramus, to be with her parents, for lots of reasons. She hates her job. Her apartment is depressing. Her last relationship tanked. Therapy isn’t helping. Her friends are married. She doesn’t want to succeed at anything. She drinks like a fish. She doesn’t want to live in New York anymore. She has nightmares about giant cockroaches. Her mother, a classical violist, has cancer. Roberta Fine uses the “c-word” to avoid talking about the “d-word,” but it’s clear that the older woman is gravely ill—and that auburn wig with short bangs she has to wear is so awful Phoebe just can’t stand it. She can remember when her mother’s long, hippie-style hair was, like, so embarrassing, and now poor old mom doesn’t have any. How ironic, thinks Phoebe, who is big on solipsistic musing. And her dad is daffier than ever, an occupational hazard of professional oboists, who are said to literally blow their brains out. Being with her parents is driving her crazy. Hanging out downtown with the fabulous, the desperate, and everyone in between isn’t much better, but she does have a slightly higher chance of getting laid. A swain appears: Stinky Mancuso, back from Novel #1, is alive and well and living under a Frenchified name. How uncool. An epiphany of sorts awaits: Phoebe realizes she didn’t move back home to take care of her mother, she moved back home to have her mother take care of her. A non sequitur is tossed in to liven up the dragging plot: Her mother’s cherished viola turns out to be a Guarneri.
What does it all mean? Hard to say. Dull prose and self-absorbed heroine are just plain irritating.