This winning sequel to Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made (1997) revisits childhood friends Pat, Marcus and Gayle.
Nearing 40, the three have found success in Manhattan. Marcus, a former ball player, is now a successful sport’s agent, while his wife Pat and best friend Gayle own and operate the Ell & Me Company, creating popular storybooks and dolls. In the 1997 novel, the lives of Gayle and her daughter Vanessa were nearly ruined (they were stuck in a homeless shelter thanks to Gayle’s gambling husband Ramsey, now long gone—or is he?), but the two have moved on to a more prosperous, if not happier life. Vanessa is a spoiled teen who wants to pursue a dancing career, while Gayle binges and purges, trying to maintain a façade of calm. Meanwhile, Pat and Marcus seem like an A-list couple, but the reality is sadder, with the two too busy moving and shaking to realize how lonely they are. Spanning a few years, the novel starts with a shock for Marcus when 18-year-old Tiffani shows up wanting to meet her daddy. A paternity test lets Marcus off the hook, but, harboring a desire for kids of his own, he still wants to help her. Pat arranges for Tiffani to go to boarding school, then college and then take a job with Ell & Me. Hardworking Tiffani seems too good to be true—and she is. If only Vanessa could be so focused, but instead she drops out of school, moves in with her abusive boyfriend and kindly lets Gayle know where her monthly allowance can be sent. Tiffani grows ever successful in her manipulation of others, Vanessa and Gayle do battle in their own private hells, Pat and Marcus become increasingly separate and Gayle is insisting Pat sell out to the big manufacturer that wants to buy their company. The road to happiness for the gang is long.
A bit sudsy, but sharp dialogue and solid, fast-paced storytelling make for a gratifying read.