Daisy Jones & The Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid


With the first spoken words of the author’s note in the audible version of Daisy Jones and The Six, I wondered if I’d somehow never heard of this quintessential California band of the 1970s. But then Daisy herself began speaking, I recognized the actual voice of Jennifer Beals, and I congratulated the author on a job well-done. Apparently, I’m not the only one who has been fooled into thinking it might have been the real thing.

There are times when I love listening to a book and times when I loathe it: this was one of the times I loved it. Jennifer Beals, Pablo Schreiber, Ari Fliakos, Benjamin Bratt, Judy Greer. It’s a great cast and they do a wonderful job infusing the multiple point of view story with emotion, personality and pathos.

The book begins as a portrait of Daisy Jones, someone the reader is presumed to know.

You’ve got a rich white girl, growing up in L.A. She’s gorgeous—­even as a child. She has these stunning big blue eyes—­dark, cobalt blue. One of my favorite anecdotes about her is that in the eighties a colored-­contact company actually created a shade called Daisy Blue. She’s got copper-­red hair that is thick and wavy and . . . takes up so much space. And then her cheekbones almost seem swollen, that’s how defined they are. And she’s got an incredible voice that she doesn’t cultivate, never takes a lesson. She’s born with all the money in the world, access to whatever she wants—­artists, drugs, clubs—­anything and everything at her disposal.

But she has no one. No siblings, no extended family in Los Angeles. Two parents who are so into their own world that they are all but indifferent to her existence. Although, they never shy away from making her pose for their artist friends. That’s why there are so many paintings and photos of Daisy as a child—­the artists that came into that home saw Daisy Jones, saw how gorgeous she was, and wanted to capture her. It’s telling that there is no Frank Jones piece of Daisy. Her father is too busy with his male nudes to pay much attention to his daughter. And in general, Daisy spends her childhood rather alone. . . .

Whiskey A Go GO

We love broken, beautiful people. And it doesn’t get much more obviously broken and more classically beautiful than Daisy Jones.


So it makes sense that Daisy starts to find herself on the Sunset Strip. This glamorous, seedy place.

Then we meet a band called The Six: brothers Billy and Graham Dunne, brothers Pete and Eddie Loving, Karen Karen the keyboardist, and drummer Warren Rhodes. Billy Dunne has found his love of a lifetime, Camilla, and spends most of his days trying to make up for his alcoholic past by writing her love songs. Graham spends most of his time trying to convince Karen to live with him happily ever after. Pete has a long-distance girlfriend, Eddie hates Billy, and Warren just wants to meet chicks. I am a huge fan of Ari Fliakos and he reads Warren to hilarious perfection here.

After lots of backstory about poor little rich girl Daisy, and her drug-infused life at the Chateau Marmont; about Billy’s descent into and out of drugs, alcohol and women following his wife’s pronouncement that she’s pregnant; after Eddie throws a fit a day over Billy’s control of the band — the band and Daisy come together, as these things happen.

Billy and Daisy don’t like each other much. She’s wasting her talent; he’s limiting his to love songs for his wife. But Daisy is invited to open on tour for The Six. When circumstances offer Billy and Daisy an opening to sing together, the dynamic explodes. They are suddenly the most popular band in the world: top of the charts, sold out concerts, groupies, roadies, Rolling Stone covers, cocaine, bennies, champagne, girls-girls-girls.

Daisy-Jones-1-e1555085250551At the urging of no less than Rolling Stones’ cover, Daisy joins The Six as an official member of the band. And as writing partner of Billy Dunne.

Daisy Jones and The Six paints a livid scene of the music industry in the 1970s. As I listened, I felt this must have been based on someone — Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles maybe? — but in retrospect, I think it’s more likely based on everyone who ever had talent and tried to take it further. About every woman who ever faced the fact that “men often think they deserve a sticker for treating women like people.”

Reid says she was inspired to write the book by songwriting teams.

First, I was really taken with how often in culture there are these men and women who write incredible songs together, but also have somewhat complicated personal relationships. The most obvious example is Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham in Fleetwood Mac, but there’s a lot of them—The Civil Wars, who broke up in 2014, and other group bands who have had difficulty in their relationships and broke up very abruptly. Take Beyoncé and Jay-Z for example (even though it’s hip-hop and not rock), who have this incredible relationship. They take their personal life and make art from it. I’m fascinated by it, so I wanted to create a band to explore that further.

There are moments particularly striking in light of the Bradley Cooper-Lady GaGa are they-aren’t they discussions as well.

Reese Witherspoon liked the book enough to choose it for her book club and optioned the TV rights before publication, and Amazon has ordered a 13-episode run of the adaptation of the book, with writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer, The Fault In Our Stars) penning the scripts. Plus, there’s a team crafting the original music for the show.

In the end, Daisy tells her own story, unvarnished and without remorse. Is it a cautionary tale? Is it a love story? Or is it all about the music? You decide. I think there’s lots and lots of fodder for your next book club discussion. And if you want to read what Rolling Stone itself has to say about Daisy Jones and The Six: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/daisy-jones-the-six-book-taylor-jenkins-reid-women-music-803045/

music“It is what I have always loved about music. Not the sounds of the crowds or the good times as much as the words – the emotions, and the stories, the truth- that you can let flow right out of your mouth. Music can dig, you know? It can take a shovel to your chest and just start digging until it hits something.”


As you might imagine, there was not a lot of food being consumed in this book. But Daisy did specifically request a hamburger for her one meal a day and there were copious amounts of champagne.

My menu would be California-inspired.

Guacamole with chips

California burgers: hamburgers wrapped in Bibb lettuce leaves instead of buns (no carbs!)

Sweet potato fries



Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours

The Eagles’ Hotel California



Sounds like Amazon is already working on this but just in case they need some help.

Daisy —  Emma Stone certainly fits the bill.

Billy — I can’t see anybody but a young Johnny Depp

Camilla — Selena Gomez (give Camilla some songs)

Graham — James Marsden

Karen Karen — Miley Cyrus

Eddie Loving — Ben Foster

Pete Loving — Jon Foster

Warren — I really want John Krasinski to play this part. He would be hilarious.

Happy Reading!



Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

TescoFriday night is Eleanor Oliphant’s favorite night of the week. She  takes the bus home from her low-paying office job in a Glasgow ad agency, buys a Tesco pizza and two bottles of Vodka and then settles in at her apartment for a long weekend of public television, nature documentaries, and mental fuzziness.

And Eleanor is fine with that. Really fine. Really, she is.

“Some people, weak people, fear solitude. What they fail to understand is that there’s something very liberating about it; once you realize that you don’t need anyone, you can take care of yourself. That’s the thing: it’s best just to take care of yourself.”

Since she moved into her solo apartment nearly a decade ago, Eleanor has had few guests. A total of two in fact. The meter reader and a social worker who checks on her about once a month. That is fine with Eleanor as well . . . until the night she encounters rock star-wannabe Johnnie Lomond who immediately impresses her as the type of man her mother would find acceptable because he buttons the lower button of his vest while performing in a local music venue.2016-05-24-1464091272-8813709-bookbinderrockstar

I have always taken great pride in managing my life alone. I’m a sole survivor – I’m Eleanor Oliphant. I don’t need anyone else – there’s no big hole in my life, no missing part of my own particular puzzle. I am a self-contained entity. That’s what l’ve always told myself, at any rate. But last night I’d found the love of my life. When I saw him walk on stage, I just knew…here, at long last, was a man who could be described with some degree of certainty as “husband material”.

I listened to the audible.com version of this book and enjoyed it immensely. Cathleen McCarron’s narration spooned the words and voice of author Gail Honeyman’s character. Hearing Honeyman’s words in McCarron’s voice I felt I knew Eleanor, even as she said once again exactly what she thought, leaving her colleagues speechless or collapsing in laughter,

Once Eleanor spies Johnnie Lomond she embarks on a no-holds barred makeover attempt. New haircut, new wardrobe, adding some make-up, and making a new friend: Raymond, from the ad company’s IT department. She found — to her surprise — these small changes reaped some rewards that she actually enjoyed.

“It turned out that if you saw the same person with some degree of regularity, then the conversation was immediately pleasant and comfortable—you could pick up where you left off, as it were, rather than having to start afresh each time. . . . Was this how it worked, then, successful social integration? Was it really that simple? Wear some lipstick, go to the hairdressers and alternate the clothes you wear?”

When Raymond and Eleanor encounter an older gentlemen in medical distress after one of their lunches, Raymond begins introducing Eleanor to lunches outside the office. Parties. Tea with his own mother. The internet becomes Eleanor’s tool to spy on Johnnie Lomond, read his tweets (hilariously narcissistic), see his Instagram posts all while plotting the first meeting that will lead inevitably to the couple’s long-term wedded bliss. It doesn’t, of course, work out that way which leads to Eleanor’s finding out she’s in fact not fine, not fine at all. Which is exactly when things become really interesting.

Gail HoneymanEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is a debut novel by a post-40 year old author. Gail Honeyman worked in the British Civil Service and as a university administrator writing her debut novel during lunch and after work. She entered Eleanor in a fiction competition, didn’t win, but an agent signed her and the novel became the subject of a bidding war,  was named 2017 Book of the Year at the British Book Awards, and the film rights have been optioned by Reese Witherspoon.  Talk about a Cinderella story.Oliphant


So deserving.

Your book club will adore it.


Eleanor’s preferred weekend meals are Tesco frozen pizzas and vodka. She prepares pesto pasta for dinner each night because it tastes good, it’s easy and it fulfills her nutritional requirements. At the pub she frequents with Raymond she becomes enamored of frothy coffee and cheese scones. She orders “Magner’s” frequently when she becomes more a part of social events, at the suggestion of a bartender. I’d never heard of Magner’s but it is an Irish hard cider. It looks to be available in the US so I would serve Magner’s with cheese scones.

Here’s a recipe for classic British cheese scones: https://www.thespruceeats.com/easy-classic-british-cheese-scone-recipe-434867

I would also serve pizza. One of my favorite things to do with pizza is to buy pre-made pizza crusts, then place an array of toppings out for people to make their own favorite. Pepperoni, turkey pepperoni, mozzarella, fresh basil, shrimp, parmesan, artichokes, spinach, baked chicken, a jar of roasted red peppers. Your guests get to have exactly what they like and have fun making them together.


Definitely some Scottish bands. The Proclaimers, Simple Minds, Big Country.

The standard which our Johnnie Lomond will never meet. Alas.


Dear Reese: I really hope you don’t transfer this story to Rupert Grintthe U.S. The Glaswegian character of the novel should be preserved.

That being said, please cast British actors! My suggestions:

Eleanor: Sophie McShera, a Scottish

Sophie_McShera_May_2014_(cropped)actress, and fan favorite Daisy from Downton Abbey

Raymond: Rupert Grint, our man Ron Weasley of Harry Potter fame

Happy Reading!



Surviving the Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll

lucky girl

Is Ani, nee TifAni, FaNelli the Luckiest Girl Alive because she’s engaged to the perfect guy, has the perfect job, wears a size zero, dresses from the designer wardrobe closet of a major women’s magazine and hasn’t yet turned 30? Or is Jessica Knoll the luckiest girl alive for transitioning from her own job at Cosmopolitan magazine to the best seller list to film production of her novel by Reese Witherspoon’s company?

I’m voting for Knoll. TifAni, with all her inherent spelling and name jessica knollintrigue, is not only not lucky, she’s not likable enough to want to befriend, and at least at the outset, a little bit too offensive to even want to read about either. Knoll must’ve stolen the luck of several generations of Irish. It couldn’t have hurt that none other than Reese Witherspoon tweeted a copy of the book jacket with this message: “It was the most non-stop nail-biting crazy train of a book with one of the most intriguing characters I have read in a long time!”

Luckiest Girl Alive begins with edgy scenes, language, risky behavior and  with Ani comtemplating stabbing her fiance in the stomach with a bridal registry knife. Along with her self-inflicted name change, Ani’s transformed her-Pennsylvania-self into a chic, New York gad-about-town/sex columnist and BrideZilla wardrobed in designer labels. The book is told completely in first person, which means that you have to either like Ani or be compelled to keep reading about this narcissistic, manipulative woman. Ultimately, you are.

I had six leisurely years to get to where I am now: fiancee in finance, first-name basis with the hostess at Locanda Verde, the latest Chloe hooked over my wrist (not Celine, bur at least I knew better than to parade around a monstrous Louis Vuitton like it was the eighth wonder of the world). Plenty of time to hone my craft. But wedding planning, now that has a much steeper learning curve.

The New York Times book review note on Luckiest Girl Alive commented lucky ladythat “some reviewers have called her the mirror image of Amy Dunne in “Gone Girl,” since Ani seems purely manipulative at the start but becomes more human as the book reveals its secrets.” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/books/review/inside-the-list.html?_r=0

Ani has a reason to be the monstrously, social climbing witch that she is, but once I discovered what the loaded asides and clues had been alluding to throughout the novel, I still didn’t like Ani, didn’t have much more compassion for her and wasn’t happy with the plot or character shift. Annie’s traumatic event was transformative only in the sense that she found a way to lose weight consistently.

Bottom line: for me, it was a quick, easy, fun read. But I didn’t like Ani at all. Ever. Once you find out the secret, which I will not disclose here, it will give your book club a toehold for an interesting discussion. How does trauma change people? And what could have been done to prevent the situation? It is particularly relevant to today’s society. So I would encourage you to read.


Ani has an eating disorder. “I loved the evenings Luke had clients to entertain. I’d come home with two plastic bags filled with the neighborhood bodega’s finest carbs, devour every last starchy crumb, and toss the evidence down the garbage chute, Luke none the wiser.”

Nevertheless, there are some good food references in Luckiest Girl Alive.

Swedish Fish

From the caterer’s tasting menu:


Lobster mac and cheese bites

Mini lobster rolls

Wasabi steak tips

Tuna tartare

Gruyere bruschetta

An oyster bar

A sushi bar

Antipasto bar


I’d do a New York playlist:

New York State of Mind, Billy Joel

I and Love and You, The Avett Brothers

Arthur’s Theme, Christopher Cross

Living for the City, Stevie Wonder

Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z & Alicia Keys

New York Minute, Don Henley


Ani — Rooney Mara

Luke — Scott Eastwood

Nell — Amanda Seyfried

Arthur — Rico Rodriguez


Happy Reading!


Kennedyesque: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.

No one is a criminal.

No one is an addict.

No one is a failure.

The Sinclairs are athletic, tall and handsome. We are old-money Democrats. Our smiles are wide, our chins are square and our tennis serves are aggressive.

. . . We are Sinclairs.

No one is needy.

No one is wrong.

We live, at least in the summertime, on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts.

Perhaps that is all you need to know.

kennedys_gallery_04Perhaps it is not all we need to know. After that first page of We Were Liars (reprinted mostly above), I was definitely intrigued. Now, was I more intrigued in the story of the Sinclairs or in my hope that this would be about the Kennedys?

But it isn’t about the Kennedys.  It is about the three daughters of Tipper and Harris Sinclair. It is about Beechmont Island. It is about the children of the three daughters of Harris Sinclair and it is specifically about three of Harris’ grandchildren, plus one friend, who become their own small community: Cadence, Johnny, Mirren and Gat. “The family calls us four The Liars, and we probably deserve it. We are all nearly the same age, and we all have birthdays in the fall. Most years on the island, we’ve been trouble.

This is one of the “young adult” novels that somehow cross over to reach into adult land, maybe because it won the Goodreads

Totally gratuitous and off-topic photo of John F. Kennedy Jr. on the beach just because he was the best

Totally gratuitous and off-topic photo of John F. Kennedy Jr. on the beach just because he was the best

 Young Adult Choice award for 2014 and was on a host of bestseller lists. My book club just finished reading it for our meeting tonight. It’s a zippy read and once Cadence loses her memory due to an unexplained on-island incident during her 15th summer, the pages turn faster. What caused the memory loss? Why have Mirren, Johnny and Gat, her first love, abandoned her? Why have Harris’ three daughters, who rivaled Lear’s in terms of grasping and bitchiness, become tender and gentle toward one another? Why has Harris torn down the grand family manse of Clairmont and installed a monastic modern temple?

Apparently, E. Lockhart was inspired by Gone Girl to write We Were Liars. That implies a surprise ending. An ending which I will not give away. I will say, it wasn’t all that shocking. The book’s cover asks readers if they are asked about the ending to “just lie.” So perhaps I should say it was all that shocking?

It was fine. It was an easy book to read. But truthfully, no lying, if I were to recommend a summer read that reminds me of the Kennedys, I’d recommend Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. Or Dominic Dunne’s A Season in Purgatory. Or Joyce Carol Oates’ Black Water. Even Stephen King’s 11/22/63. All really good reads inspired by the Kennedys.


New England Clam Chowder:  https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/the-past-and-future-of-nao-a-tale-for-the-time-being-by-ruth-ozeki/

S’mores Dip: instead of making regular s’mores, put chocolate in a ceramic dish and cover it with marshmallows. Bake until the marshmallows puff and brown and then serve with graham crackers to dip.

Our lovely hostess at book club served the following, summery menu:

Deviled Shrimp

Guacamole with blue corn chips

Green bean and potato salad

Crab cakes with tomato jam

Slow roasted tomato with mozzarella and basil


This novel seems like it would be set in the 40s or 50s, but it’s modern day. Nevertheless . . . I would play some classic, old school music: Cole Porter’s soundtrack for High Society, the Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story set in Newport, R.I.


It looks like We Were Liars has been sold to be made into a movie.

Harris Sinclair:  Tom Wilkinson

Tipper Sinclair:  Blythe Danner

Penny: Kate Hudson

Bess: Reese Witherspoon

Carrie:  MIchelle Pfeiffer

Cadence:  Chloe Grace Moretz

Mirren:  Dakota Fanning

Johnny:  Chord Overstreet

Gat:  Suraj Sharma

Happy Reading!

A Novel Holiday, by Pamela Dae (Sneak Peek!)

novel holiday

   I promised to post the first two chapters of my novel in progress on Facebook when I reached 750 fans.  I hit that benchmark last Friday (and over the weekend lost a fan).  But the two chapters are posted and I’m hoping you will enjoy them as well.

This is a copyrighted work of fiction by Pamela Dae Perlman.  Resemblance to persons living or dead is completely coincidental and/or your imagination.  If you like this, please let me know!  Share the page too.

big ben copy

Chapter One

Two weeks, Isabel thought, and Big Ben will be our wake-up call. The Tower, the Thames, London Bridge. But so much to accomplish before they departed: the last fundraising push for the Literacy Institute, posting the semester grades for her classes, and most importantly, getting an o.k. from Mary Clair’s doctor. They could discuss the details tonight at book club and then — Isabel wanted to shout with joy — then her dream trip to Europe would be almost here. She heard the old-fashioned “oo-oo-ga” of a classic car horn and reached for her phone, but had no idea where she stowed it in the rush to leave work. She stopped on a linden-canopied block of Park Avenue in Richmond’s Fan District, halfway between the university and home, and plopped her bags on a brick wall. She shuffled through the vintage Fendi, the bag of groceries, a canvas tote crammed with students’ final submissions from her “Angels and Demons” seminar. Finally, she upended the purse, scattering the contents and locating the damn phone in a side pocket just as it went to voicemail.   Laura June White. She hit call back without listening to the message.

“Laura June, no need to bring anything tonight, just you and your copy of Cold Comfort Farm.”

“Izzy, oh honey, I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t come to book club tonight.” Isabel thought Laura June’s voice sounded slurred. “Hang on a minute.”

Isabel flattened her tote on top of the wall and hoisted herself backwards to sit on top of it, losing one of her heels in the process and hoping not to snag her skirt. Despite the risk, she felt it best to be sitting; Laura June drinking at five in the afternoon meant quite a story and she was not known for brevity anyway.

“OK, I’m back. Grange brought me a Co’Cola and another pillow.”

“Laura June, what is going on?”

“Thanks, Grange. So, Izzy, you know that ladies round robin at the Richmond Tennis Club every Tuesday?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Isabel waited several beats for Laura June to continue speaking. When she didn’t, she said, “And?”

Laura June burped. “And? Oh, sorry, I might have drifted off there. So Corie Crockett and I were playing a match this morning. Do you know Corie?”

“All too well.” Isabel kicked off her other heel and hoped the soft river breeze would soothe her; instead it blew a large hunk of auburn curls into her lip-gloss.

“Oh, that’s right. So Corie really slammed a serve in my direction. I thought I could get to it if I backed up enough, so I kept backing and backing and hit a bench. I do not know why they put those benches right there at the edge of the court. Do you?” Laura June began humming.

“I don’t play much tennis, Laura June.”

“It’s really fun; you should play. You’re always complaining about your weight.” Isabel pursed her lips and counted silently to five. “And then you hit a bench?”

“Uh huh. I fell bass-ackward and ended up in the ER with a broken femur.”

“What? Are you all right? What can I do?”

“Nothing, honey, thank you so much. I won’t make it to book club tonight though but I really did like all those old Starkadders. Specially the cows.” She giggled again and said in a softer voice, “Ada Doom kinda reminds me of Grange’s momma. So, I’m home and Grange taking care of me, and his momma took the kids for a couple days. They gave me some good meds at the hospital so I’m feeling very groovy. For now.”

“Well, that’s good. I’m so sorry about your leg.” Isabel bit her tongue to keep from blurting out a question about whether the trip would be cancelled.

“And honey, I have the best news. You do not have to worry about the trip at all.”

“Laura June, what a relief that you can go.” Isabel felt her heart rate return to normal. “You know how much this means to Mary Clair.”

“I know, honey.”

“And to the Literacy Institute. We told the donors it would be our book club tour of Europe and without you, it just wouldn’t be that.”

“Isabel.” Laura June’s voice held a tone of scandalized pride. “I could never ever do that to the Institute. We’ve raised almost ten thousand dollars with our — um, Grange? What do you call the book club thingamajig? That’s right, the Walking Litter-Thon.”

“Um hmmm,” Isabel said. “Literary Walk-A-Thon.”

“S’what I said.”

“But we leave in less than three weeks, are you sure you’ll be all right by then?”

“Izzy, first, ‘sall taken care of. But it’ll be suites at all of the BedStead hotels. And that boat trip from England to Amsterdam? Gonna be first class.”


“And, y’all are gonna be guests of BedStead at Joel Robuchon’s restaurant in Paris, right at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.”

“Hang on a second, Laura June. What do you mean ‘y’all will be guests of’?”

“Well honey, I can’t go.”

“Laura June, this is the Fan Fiction Book Club trip and we can’t go without you.”

Isabel inhaled deeply, trying to take her yoga teacher’s advice. “It’s our trip. Together. We all planned it but you made it happen.” Isabel picked up a leaf from the wall next to her and twisted the stem. “Or Grange did anyway, giving us free rooms. Maybe we can push the trip back for a few weeks?”

“I appreciate that, really, but even after I get out of this cast, I’ll have physical therapy and by then, you will have a whole new bunch of students to teach.”

“I suppose postponing is out,” Isabel said. She frowned at the seminar papers strewn across the ground, hoping against hope she did not find her students’ usual “cutting edge” references to Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Twilight. “But, we can’t — or I can’t anyway — afford the trip without the BedStead rooms. And I thought you had to be with us for us to use the rooms. So without you, we will have to cancel.”

“No, Isabel. You remember Grange’s partner in the BedStead group is Daniel Crockett, don’t you?”

“Oh yes.”

“And, you know how Daniel is married to Corie?”

“How could I forget that?”

“So, Corie drove me to the hospital. And the doctor came out after my surgery and told her that I wasn’t going on any trip this summer and then Grange got there and I told him and I was crying and upset about y’all possibly having to cancel the trip and all. And I asked Grange to let you use the rooms but he said it was against company policy; that some family member had to be on the trip to use the rooms, just like you said. Grange said maybe we could do it next summer. And Corie felt real bad about it. She wanted to know who all was supposed to be going and where all we were supposed to go. And I told her England and France and Mexico — ”

“Spain, you mean Spain?”506px-Donquixote

“Oh yeah, Spain. And Corie knows Mary Clair and you . . .”

“Yes, she certainly does.”

” . . . And so she called Daniel and told him all of it and um, well — it all worked out the best! God works in the most mysterious ways doesn’t He, Isabel? Daniel just got on the phone or the internet or whatever and fixed up everything to be first class – cause you know Corie won’t go unless it’s all first class – and Corie is taking my place and you all get to go.”

Isabel dropped the telephone, picked it up and told Laura June she had to get ready for book club and would call her back later. She touched the phone and pressed the name “Mary Clair.”

Chapter Two

“Iz?” Mary Clair answered.

“Oh Mary Clair, I just got the worst possible news. You are not going to believe who is coming on our trip.”

“Isabel, what are you talking about? I know exactly who is going: you, me, Laura June and Kitty.” Mary Clair spoke with her usual balance of distracted attention devoting herself to the conversation, her family, and a patient problem simultaneously. She sat in her kitchen command center, her short hair neatly styled in a choppy bob, wearing lululemon, updating her iPad grocery list, answering her mother’s shouted game show questions and occasionally making a hand-written note in a PTSD patient’s chart.

“No, no, no. Mary Clair Lawson, I need your full attention now. I mean I hate to bother you with this, but really,” Isabel said, her vocal register growing higher and louder, “this is unbelievably awful. Laura June broke her leg this morning and . . .” Behind Isabel, the door of the house swung open and a red-faced octogenarian wielding a four-point walker asked pointedly if she needed assistance. She waved and with an apologetic smile began picking up the debris she scattered in her phone search.

“Isabel, what’s happening?”

“I’m sitting in someone’s front yard and I need to move.” Isabel hopped from the wall and slipped her feet back into her shoes; stuffed her students’ papers into the tote vowing silently to switch to online submissions next semester; retrieved her wallet, Eiffel Tower key chain with house, car and office keys, pocket calendar, journal, Will Shakes keychain with spare and other keys, Black Honey lipstick, paperback copy of Wolf Hall, hardbound copy of Daisy Miller and her father’s vintage Mont Blanc from the ground and crammed them all in her purse. “OK Mary Clair, are you there? I was about to be arrested by Grandpa Jones.”

“I’m here, will you tell me what in the world is going on?”

“I have two words. Corie. Crockett.” Isabel felt a good cry blooming. She trudged along the brick sidewalk toward home, failing to notice the beauty of the late spring Tidewater afternoon. Everything around her might as well have been dark gray.

“OK, I give. Laura June has a broken leg. You are trespassing on private property. And Corie Crockett what? You are going to have to connect the dots for me and soon if you want me to be at book club tonight because I have to finish dinner for Jonathan, Addy and Mom, and dictate notes from two patients this afternoon. Talk.”

Isabel inhaled deeply and then launched into the explanation. “Laura June and Corie were playing tennis this morning. Laura June broke her leg and can’t go on the trip. Corie volunteered to go in Laura June’s place and Laura June accepted on our behalf.”

After a very long pause, Mary Clair spoke. “Oh.”

“Exactly. I think I’m going to cry. Or get very, very intoxicated. Probably both. Actually, Laura June sounded like she was on some good pain meds, maybe she’ll share.”

Mary Clair laughed. “Iz, come on. You can do it. We have been planning this since … since forever. Kitty might literally go crazy if we don’t go.” Mary Clair lowered her voice. “And frankly, I need the distraction. The next CT-scan won’t be until August and I’d much rather spend a month of the wait in Europe than here, obsessing about it.”

Isabel swallowed hard. How could she be so selfish when Mary Clair was facing a mastectomy or worse? “I know, you’re right. We are going.” But the firmness in her voice broke with a deep gasp. “Corie Crockett.” If she had been three years old, she would have thrown herself to the ground and drummed her heels against the bricks.

“Corie is,” Mary Clair paused, searching for a diplomatic term but Isabel interrupted. “BlondeZilla. And I bet she purposely broke Laura June’s leg to spoil my trip.”

“Izzy. You’re right, she can be difficult but Laura June fell backwards over a bench. And it hasn’t spoiled your trip; you don’t really want to cancel.”

“No. Not really.”

“And I don’t think there’s any way we can do it without those hotel rooms.”

“And it’s not just Corie. We planned this as our book club thing.”

“We did.”

“MC, don’t be using your psychology tricks on me. I know what you are doing. Validating what I say so that I will turn around and agree with you.”

“I am not using any tricks on you. You’re right. We planned it together as a book club thing. But a long time before that, you and I planned it as a trip for us and I am definitely still going. I need to go. And you need to go more than I do.”

“Mary Clair, I can’t help it. She ruined my life and I hate her.”

It was a familiar refrain but Mary Clair had never had success in pointing out that a) Isabel didn’t really or shouldn’t hate anyone; and b) if she were going to blame anyone it should be Daniel, not Corie, his wife. Nevertheless, she made another attempt. “Iz, you need to get beyond this. It’s been nearly 15 years since you and Daniel broke up.”

“Since Corie stole him from me.”

“I love you Isabel Arlington Randolph and for that reason I am going to start speaking some truth. You are a beautiful, accomplished, intelligent woman. You have a PhD in Literature, for goodness’ sake and you are a professor at a wonderful school. You have friends who love you. I mean, look at the support you were able to build for the Literacy Center just by making this trip a fundraiser. If you allow Daniel and Corie to have this power over you, it will ruin not just this trip, but any chance you have for a future relationship. And I am not going to allow you to do it.”

Isabel opened her mouth to protest but MC continued speaking.

“Look at the past 15 years. You’ve dated — what — two men? And turned down countless other invitations. And you knew both of the two you did accept were going nowhere. You sabotage yourself.”

“Not true.”

“Is true.”

“Not.” Isabel ground her teeth. She stomped through the white picket fence and up the brick walk to her front porch. The scarlet Calliope geraniums lining her stairs needed some attention. She unlocked her red-varnished door; tripping the beep, beep of the alarm system. Isabel heard Regan thump down from her sleeping spot on an upstairs bed and bark a greeting.

“Isabel?” Mary Clair asked. “Remember when we were in the eighth grade and you promised one day you would help me go to England to meet George Michael?”

Isabel walked through the vestibule, down the hall past the sitting room and dining room. Her heels clacked on the hardwood floors until she slid her shoes off on the terracotta tile of into the kitchen floor and dumped everything she carried onto the wide plank table. She punched in the passcode to disarm the security system and then sat heavily in one of black Hitchcock chairs around the table. “Yeah,” she said.

“You have never broken a single promise to me.”

“Mary Clair, you know I would never.”

“Well, I’m still waiting to meet George.”

“Ha ha. News flash, he won’t have much interest in you.”

Mary Clair laughed with appreciation. “That’s the spirit.”

Regan scampered down the back stairs, snuffling with happiness, and Isabel dropped to kneel and bury her face in the dog’s thick ruff of soft, white hair. “Hey Mary Clair, do you remember when we were in college and I was about to marry Daniel Crockett, until he ditched me and announced he was engaged to some flight attendant slash professional cheerleader from Arkansas and proceeded to marry her?”

“Yeah,” Mary Clair said, her voice dropping low with compassion. “Oh Izzy, I feel so badly for you, but I just don’t know what else we can do.”

girl in paris

Movie Casting!

Isabel — Jennifer Garner/Rachel Weisz/Kate Winslett

Mary Clair — Courteney Cox

Kitty — Reese Witherspoon/Jenny McCarthy

Corey — Charlize Theron