David Parry is a wealthy and successful rock-and-roll manager living his dream in a mansion in Bel Air. His knack for discovering talent and foreseeing trends has brought him fame and fortune beyond his wildest expectations. Violet, his slightly overweight, multi-talented wife and mother of his beloved daughter Dot, is his anchor and the one person in his life he trusts and relies on to get things done.
One morning, David discovers a dead gopher in the Jacuzzi. When he tells Violet to dispose of the rodent, it’s a slap in the face for Violet, who has become depressed and listless after giving up her career to become a mother.
Violet decides she wants more from life than disposing of critters and taking care of the needs of her husband and daughter. Later that day, while driving through the hills around Los Angeles, she stumbles upon Teddy Reyes, an unkempt bass player working small-time gigs to pay his rent while trying to overcome his drug and alcohol addictions. The chance encounter with Teddy is the beginning of a hedonistic addiction for Violet.
Meanwhile, David’s gorgeous and manipulative sister Sally is closing in on 40 and desperate to find a husband to fulfill her need for stability and financial independence. Sally sets her sights on Jeremy, a talented up-and-coming sportswriter, as the man she is determined to marry, despite his lack of social skills.
The characters in THIS ONE IS MINE are so real they jump off the pages, and they are all more complex than at first glance. Beyond their lives and hopes and dreams, they are genuine people with secrets, frailties and insecurities. The only part of the novel I found distracting was the celebrity causes du jour, where philanthropists line up to write checks to bring attention to the latest disability. I don’t know why it bothered me, but it did.
The dialogue is often wise and hilarious and always rings true, although some might find the politically incorrect and raunchy parts offensive. The wedding scene, the parenting class and David’s encounter in the sweat lodge all deserve a second reading to catch what might be missed the first time. I have read the last chapter more than once, not for its humor but for its tender and graceful prose.
Not many books can make me laugh and cry; Maria Semple’s debut novel did both. It is wickedly funny; at times tart and bitter, other times sweet and wise. I expected THIS ONE IS MINE to be a story about vapid unfulfilled women trying to keep or catch a husband while tracking the latest trend. But this book is not at all what I expected. Thankfully it is much more.