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AMERICAN ICON by Pat Booth

AMERICAN ICON

By Pat Booth

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-316-10212-1
Publisher: Little, Brown

Roman Ö clef about superhomemaker Martha Stewart, a colossus idolized by millions. Few readers (or reviewers) will know how closely Booth (Marry Me, 1996, etc.) limns her subject’s real life. But that doesn’t mean Stewart doesn’t lend to every page its charge. Booth evokes features of the idol’s character and career persuasively enough to suggest (as many will believe) a strong resemblance. And as an “American icon,” Stewart is certainly fair game. Back in 1970, young Kate Branagan, a magazine photographer’s expert model, is waitressing at Max’s Kansas City and serving the Warhol Factory superstars when she meets and marries, then moves to the Hamptons with, rising star literary agent Peter Haywood. Peter sees that Kate’s huge organizational skill masquerades as spontaneity—and he knows how to sell it. A subplot contrasts Kate’s life with that of self-sacrificing surgeon Donna Gardiner, who sees herself as a “romantic billiard ball on the rebound on the green baize pool table of life.” Kate’s soon handling weekend meals for Hamptons millionaires; backed by Peter, she rises to fame as a magazine and book publisher, TV hostess, etc., who lures audiences with her easygoing charm and sincerity. Kate’s broadening business activities, however, dry up her marriage and her caregiving for daughter Sam. Time comes, in fact, when Peter, ousted as her chief business partner, runs off with Martha Stewart’s, or rather Kate Haywood’s, chief assistant Ruth, who has absorbed her boss’s full range of skills. Peter’s defection leaves Kate on Prozac and her empire dwindling, while pale Peter and vampire Ruth start out, first, to create a rival homemaking empire and then to steal Kate’s altogether. A sheer Bette Davis weeper ending (call it White Victory). But with attractive, versatile Stewart’s face seeping through every page, who could miss?