Friday, May 18, 2018

"Restless in LA" by Robin Finn - a kaleidoscope of first world problems

Greetings, commies!
As I am approaching my 40th birthday this summer, I cannot help but wonder what other middle-aged women are doing behind closed doors, especially those from a different socio-economic strata. Given that I am ridiculously happy in my marriage (after 20 years of being with the same man), I often wonder about the plight of "desperate housewives". Please consider reading Restless in LA. Do not be deceived by the flippant estrogen-loaded cover. It's a serious, often critical piece of women's fiction. 

It was an innocent online flirtation. Until it wasn't.

Alexandra Hoffman thinks she has it all together. She lives with her work-obsessed husband Jason and their three challenging children in upscale Los Angeles. She never meant to “friend” her old boyfriend, Matt Daniels. She hasn’t seen him in twenty years. But as Alex’s fortieth birthday approaches, she finds herself re-connecting with Matt online—and re-reading her college journal, which details their intense connection and unresolved ending. But Alex’s hands are full with the kids, one of whom she just can’t help, no matter how hard she tries.

Lonely and alienated by the helicopter moms, and from Jason who is never around, Alex’s flirtation quickly moves from on-line to real-world. Alex realizes—too late—that she cannot trust herself. When she meets Matt for dinner, the attraction is undeniable. And when he touches her face, it’s electric. As her life spirals out of control, she clings to her free-spirited life coach, Lark, to make sense of the mess she’s made. But Lark’s advice is clear: Alex must confront her past and find the courage to face her future, even if it means risking everything. 

My thoughts:
I derived sadistic pleasure out of this novel. The main character/narrator is exactly the type of person I like to ridicule with my immigrant friends over shots of vodka. You know the type: a neurotic, vapid LA housewife with her minivan, yoga classes, anxiety pills, a whiny anonymous blog, a hippie life coach and a string of overbooked, overdiagnosed, overmedicated children. Alexandra Hoffman is an iconic figure from one of those "Real Housewives" shows. She is the kind of woman that squeamishly winces when she hears an accent, but then she wrings her hands and whimpers when ostracized by the women of her social class due to her son's behavior issues. (I guess she expects a medal for driving her kids to activities and therapies.) I know the type, because we have so many of those on the East Coast. And if you are a hard-working, self-servicing, meant-and-potatoes first generation American mama like myself, you will have little sympathy for the likes of Alexandra Hoffman. And yet, you will find yourself sympathizing with her at times. You see, even she gets those moments of lucidity when she becomes painfully aware of the vapidness of her own existence, of the fact that her "skinny fat" body is aging and her parenting efforts are not paying off. Beneath all that California flakiness and suburban ennui, there is a redeemable human being - even if that redemption comes in the form of an affair with an old boyfriend. "Restless in LA" is a brilliant piece of chick lit that will stir a wide range of feelings, from gloating contempt to compassion.  

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