A long-divorced pair of 70-something celebrities runs into each other at a ritzy Malibu rehab center.
Tanen's (Are You Going to Kiss Me Now?, 2011, etc.) first novel for adults follows a YA title and a hilarious series of illustrated books featuring yellow chicks. Though her delightful sense of humor infuses the plot and dialogue with sparkle, the characters and their predicaments are not played for laughs, or not only for laughs—along with the farcical situations come moments of real emotion and insight. The novel's title refers to German words that express concepts that take a whole sentence to convey in English, like Verschlimmbessern (“to make matters worse in the process of trying to improve them”) and Schnapsidee (“a plan so stupid, it must have come from a drunken mind”). These and three other such terms are the titles of the five sections of the book. In the first, two senior citizens with celebrated careers turn their lives into train wrecks. Marty Kessler is a retired Hollywood producer whose gold-digging girlfriend packs him off to Directions Rehabilitation Center for yet another stint in rehab when his opioid-and-benzo habit veers out of control. Bunny Small is a gin-swilling British author with a series of bestselling books for teens about a character named Henry Holter. When her estranged adult son, also named Henry Holter, fails to show up at the 70th birthday party thrown for her by her agent, she goes off the rails altogether. She, too, is sent to Directions. The family members who remain in the outside world have troubles of their own: Henry's girlfriend is cheating on him, and now his mother, whom he crossed the globe to escape, has shown up in Los Angeles. Marty's daughters, Janine and Amanda, have never fully recovered from their mother's long-ago suicide; Janine has the additional burden of having been a huge television star when she was a child, while Amanda's twin daughters hate each other. As the characters weather tough times and deal with hurts old and new, love and humor light the way.
Full of intelligence and charm.