I’ve been on a reading streak of chick-lit/contemporary women’s fiction lately (I basically use those terms interchangeably now) and I’ve noticed a few trends within the genre, one of them being the inclusion of a rich or celebrity-like character in every story. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but There’s a Word For That by Sloane Tanen is one of the few books I’ve read that really explores the impact of having an extremely wealthy or famous person as part of your immediate family. It takes this concept a step further when it examines what happens if there’s more than one of those ‘stars’ in the family…emotional chaos, obviously.
Marty Kessler is a famous Hollywood producer who’s addicted to painkillers and his first wife Bunny is a wildly famous writer/alcoholic, and even though they haven’t spoken to each other in decades, they wind up at the same rehab center in Malibu. Janine is one of Marty’s adult daughters, a child star who hasn’t worked since she was a teenager and suffering numerous anxiety disorders because of her unwelcome (and continuing) fame. Amanda is Marty’s other daughter, struggling for his approval and sworn enemy of Janine. Henry rounds out this exceptional bunch, son of Bunny (but not Marty) and falling head-over-heels in love with Janine. Together they’re forced to face the mistakes from their past and confront the bitterness that each and every one of them is holding on to.
This book is full of stereotypes (which is sometimes more realistic than we’d like to admit) plus there’s some pretty unrealistic coincidences, but if you’re willing to forgive these two things, you’ll enjoy reading about this extended family. It’s an easy to follow plot, even though there is LOTS going on, and there’s a wide cast of supporting characters that flit in and out of the narrative. But each serves to shine a light on a main character and his or her motivations, so we get numerous chances to really ‘see’ someone for who they are. It’s easy to create one-dimensional characters to fit the quirky roles each family inevitably has, but the author pushes against that particular stereotype in favour of fleshing out a few people who are key to the plot.
Although this book is about family, the subject of loneliness and isolation is a common theme. When people lust after fame, they tend to overlook or ignore the fact that the life of a celebrity can be very solitary. I can’t think of a more horrible feeling than questioning why your friends are really your friends, and how often celebrities or people of a certain stature are betrayed by those who simply want or expect something from them. Perhaps this is why drugs seem to be so commonplace in the arena of the rich and famous, and why authors who depict even fictional celebrities are likely to include these addictions in their stories.
I stand by my original assessment that this book is a light read for summer, because it doesn’t delve too deeply into the darker issues I bring up here, and the characters are quite funny and empathetic, even though some of them are complete idiots. It’s a cautious look at celebrity and the ways it can affect the families of the famous: those buried beneath the headlines.
It sounds like the fact that their adult children like each other mean that they’re going to have to reconcile while in rehab. That’s a big feat to ask of anyone. I’m not sure how realistic Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab show is, but I do know that it was pretty dark, grisly, and that about half of the people he worked with on that show later committed suicide or over-dosed, which is the more realistic outcome of a serious addiction.
Yikes! Is that show still on?
Not sure. I got rid of cable 6 years ago.
Me too! Although I got rid of mine more like…10 years ago. Mainly bc my husband and I were broke lol
I just tired of feeling compelled to watch Sex and The City reruns.
Yeah, the rich–so many of those.
Like Swing Time! Can’t figure out if these types of books are meant to be escapism or cautionary tale, sometimes.
Yah it gets pretty murky in this genre I think
Yeah, I’ve never understood why people would want a celebrity lifestyle! I wouldn’t mind being quietly mega-rich, living in a nice isolated castle with a huge library. But I’d hate to be in the papers all the time with people commenting on my clothes, my weight, and my relationships! Maybe the escapism comes from our relief at not being these people…
I think you’re right FF, it makes me so thankful for my life after closing these books haha
This makes me think I’d like to read a book that takes place in a rehab center – maybe alternating perspectives of the addicts and the support workers. Know any like that?
Hmmm none come to mind-although that is certainly a book I would read!!!