Debut author Asthana offers a novel about a young woman’s peculiar journey of self-discovery.
Los Angeles resident Genevieve is a lover of golden-age cinema and its stars, especially Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, and Humphrey Bogart. Her job only fuels her affection, as she works at the Hollywood Clothing Store, which specializes in selling clothing that’s been worn in the movies. It carries many curiosities and replicas, including Marilyn Monroe’s dress from Niagara (1953) and Jack Nicholson’s hat from Chinatown (1974). Genevieve has her share of personal problems, however. She’s unlucky in love—even sending herself flowers on Valentine’s Day—and carries the burden of a family tragedy. As she admires her store’s clothes, she often wonders if there’s something special in the fabric itself: “Could there be a transfer, due perhaps to some extraordinary quantum-electro-something…influence of the essence, the spirit, the chakra, the chi, of the former owner?” She decides to borrow different outfits for her own personal adventures and finds that her actions are, in fact, affected by the clothing she wears. She takes on different personas and helps others to do so, as well. Along the way, she investigates the bloody history of one of the store’s dresses, deals with her own troubled family, confronts a figure from her past, and searches for love. A summary of the plot may make its main idea seem a bit trite. However, Asthana executes the concept in subtle and unexpected ways. For example, when Genevieve attempts to help her friend Todd sort out his sexuality, she helps him into a leather jacket once worn by James Dean: “she had sought the clothing of a known bisexual….This way, she figured, Todd could decide what he really was, without being biased.” (Genevieve also gives Todd a dose of peyote to help him find himself.) Overall, the author manages to deftly mix aspects of suspenseful film noir, chick lit, and Hollywood nostalgia in this well-paced, concise tale.
An entertaining ride with a troubled but sympathetic young woman.