Another women-through-the-decades drama from Jaffe (The Road Taken, 2000, etc.), this time based on a premise from a newspaper article she wrote in 1963.
The original Herald-Tribune story chronicled the travails of single “girls” forced to share tiny, expensive Manhattan apartments while they held down low-paying jobs and hunted for husbands. The level of Jaffe’s inventiveness in her fictional elaboration can be judged by the fact that she recycles many of the article’s details. Leigh Owen, a 23-year-old secretary at “the powerful Star Management talent agency,” can afford the outrageous $200 monthly rent on an Upper East Side one-bedroom apartment only if she gets three roommates. She recruits fellow Pembroke grad Cady Fineman, sexy stewardess Vanessa Preet, and dull doctor’s receptionist Susan Brown. Jaffe sketches her characters with broad strokes: Leigh is smart, self-possessed, ambitious; much-older Star partner David Graham encourages her to become an agent. Emotionally needy Cady teaches high-school English, stagnates in a long-term affair with a student’s father, Paul, and is always being bailed out of financial trouble by her mother. Vanessa is casually promiscuous. Susan is a dreary drag, and the other three don’t like her, though they’re guilt-ridden when it seems their hostility has driven her to suicide. Shortly thereafter, the remaining roommates go their separate ways. Pregnant Vanessa marries a lawyer she doesn’t love and relocates in California. Cady moves into a fancy apartment paid for by Paul, whom everyone but Cady realizes will never leave his wife. Leigh marries David, has perfect children and a perfect life. All stay in touch and also remain friends with Charlie Rackley, a platonic pal from their roommate days who maintains his crush on Vanessa and eventually clears up the mystery of Susan’s death. It’s very stock stuff, but with the exception of some embarrassing scene-setting paragraphs (“The decade that was to be known as the ‘Me Decade’ had begun and people wanted it all”), Jaffe handles it adequately.
For undemanding readers.