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FOUR OF A KIND by Valerie Frankel

FOUR OF A KIND

By Valerie Frankel

Pub Date: March 6th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-345-52540-6
Publisher: Random House

Four women approaching middle age find insight and inspiration at the poker table, in Frankel’s breezy latest (It’s Hard Not to Hate You, 2010, etc.).

To form the new PTA diversity committee at her sons’ elite Brooklyn Heights private school, blond yummy-mummy Bess chooses three other mothers as different from herself as possible. There’s Carla, an African-American pediatrician who, with her manipulative husband Claude, is struggling to afford the high tuition that will keep their sons from slipping out of the middle class. Robin, who lives off her inheritance, was once obese. Slim post-stomach-staple, she’s looking on in horror as daughter Stephanie, conceived in a one-night stand with a suspected “chubby-chaser,” must wear a size 14 at age 10. Advertising copywriter Alicia, whose son Joe was born after a long struggle with infertility, is going through a sexual dry spell: Her husband Tim, a stay-at-home dad, seems to have lost all conjugal interest. The first meeting of these four takes an unexpected turn: Bess announces they will play Texas Hold ’Em, but, in deference to the bad economy, the stakes will be not money but secrets. She herself reveals the hidden flaws in her outwardly perfect life: Unlike Tim, Bess’ Wall Street insider husband Borden is oversexed. Her mother, Simone, a second-wave feminist icon, is trying to drive a wedge between Bess and teenage daughter Amy. As the poker nights progress, diversity in the politically correct sense is never discussed: instead the women find that their new connection is more and more crucial as each faces turning points, including Claude’s impending job loss, Alicia’s affair with a younger colleague, the unexpected reappearance of Robin’s chubby-chaser in her and Stephanie’s lives, Amy’s increasing slovenliness and declaration of lesbian leanings and Borden’s depression following his father’s death. Although the closing empowerment scenarios are a bit pat, the poker conceit is an artful framing device, and the four women and their dilemmas are portrayed with Frankel’s trademark witty empathy.

Transcends the conventions of chick lit to dramatize complex and timely issues.