Sunday, October 21, 2007

They hate me, they hate me not ...

When a reviewer expects to hate your book and then has to admit to admit that maybe it wasn't that bad, it's particularly gratifying. And it's even better when the plot summary makes it clear that the reviewer has given the book a very careful read. Here's one such critique I just found. It's from the Midwest Book Review, where it was listed under "Reviewer's Choice":

Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA
Ellen Meister
Avon c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 100229780060824815 $13.95 800-242-7737

Through a quirky series of circumstances, Applewood, Long Island, appears to be in contention as the site of an upcoming movie currently in the planning stages, to star George Clooney, the secret [or not-so-secret] fantasy of many a female PTA member. Most of the action centers around three good friends, Maddie Shein, Ruth Moss, and Lisa Slotnick, who, along with another woman who joins the buddy circle, Beryl Berman, find themselves plotting against the head of the PTA, a bitchy type who wants to achieve her own coup by taking credit for getting the event for their town. [As an added bonus, doing the film at the local high school would also bring a much-needed stadium to the school grounds.] Each woman has her back story, of course, and the reader is given the details on each one.

I had frankly expected this book to be a bubble-headed exercise, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the women [and the men in their lives] were quite recognizable, and the story engrossing. The milieu in which they live their lives were very realistically portrayed, given that this is fiction after all and one doesn't really expect George Clooney to appear in a real-life finale [no spoiler here, the tantalizing and broad hint is given in a brief prologue -- although it's not technically designated as such]. I found the novel thoroughly enjoyable.

Another review like this recently appeared in TQR, a literary ezine:

by Steve Hansen

The first hundred pages of Ellen Meister’s “Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA” were hard to get through. But, it’s chick lit, so seeing that this reviewer is somewhat un-chick, you may chalk that up to reason. There’s a lot of inner dialogue about so-and-so’s choice of shoes and descriptions of clothing. The fawning over the insufferable Hollywood blowhard George Clooney was also something of a snooze.

But ... the sex was good.

And if the sex is good, as anybody with a libido can tell you, a lot can be forgiven. The only thing is, there isn’t enough of it. Oh sure, maybe if you’re past the age of 65 and can’t afford Viagra, but otherwise it’s like, excuse me, but give me more, baby! Give me more!

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to the threesome, which is the novel meandered its way into a soul.

The failed attempt between Maddie and Frank to have an affair becomes particularly poignant when you get deeper into the novel and discover some of Applewood’s secrets (which aren’t really anything to do with the PTA, but the tie-in with the title is close enough). This plotline is the strongest of the book, followed closely by the Mommy Dearest-type relationship between Lisa and her mother Nancy, which, of course, by the end of the novel has come to an equitably satisfying resolution.

Secret Confessions sneaks up on you. Amid all the girl-talk and fashion mongering and sex, Meister manages to create characters to whose problems you can relate. And it happens almost imperceptibly. As I rushed through the final one hundred pages of the novel tears came to my eyes three times and streamed down my face one time, at least that is all I am willing to admit to.


Ms. Theologian said...

I think they wanted to hate you, but they LOVED you instead. :)

Two Sisters said...

Ellen, your book sounds great. I am now going to have to read it.


Donna said...

They have no choice but to love you. These are great!