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Ask Again Laterby Jill A Davis
Synopses & Reviews
Emily has a tendency to live with one foot out the door. For her, the best thing about a family crisis is the excuse to cut and run. When her mother dramatically announces they've found a lump, Emily gladly takes a rain check on life to be by her mother's side, leaving behind her career, her boyfriend, and those pesky, unanswerable questions about who she is and what she's doing with her life.
But back in her childhood bedroom, Emily realizes that she hasn't run fast or far enough. One evening, while her mother calls everyone in her Rolodex to brief them on her medical crisis and schedule a farewell martini, Emily opens the door, quite literally, to find her past staring her in the face. How do you forge a relationship with the father who left when you were five years old? As Emily attempts to find balance on the emotional seesaw of her life, with the help of two hopeful suitors and her Park Avenue Princess sister, she takes a no-risk job as a receptionist at her father's law firm and slowly gets to know the man she once pretended was dead.
From the brainy, breezy writer who "writes like a professional comic" (The Onion) and is "hard to stop reading once you start" (USA Today) comes a laugh-out-loud tale that confirms you can recover from your parents, the bad habit of missed opportunities, and men who romance you with meat. When opportunity knocks, it's time to stop running and start living.
"When her mother is diagnosed with cancer, New Yorker Emily Rhode ditches her too-perfect boyfriend and far from perfect legal career to become her mother's primary caregiver. At the same time, she reconciles with her estranged father, who left when she was five. When he offers her a job as a receptionist at his law firm, complete with Friday martini lunch dates and father-daughter cab rides to work, Emily agrees, and jokey family bonding follows as mom skates through treatment and dad proves to be more of a teddy bear than an iceman. Davis, author of Girls' Poker Night and a former writer for The Late Show with David Letterman, loads the narrative with one-liner asides and funny riffs (there's a particularly good bit about espresso machines), though she's less adept at sizing up Emily's inner turmoil, notably her fear of committing to smart, patient and loving boyfriend Sam. Though soft-focused (taking care of cancer-stricken mom mostly consists of watching TV and playing board games), Davis's book leavens regret and tragedy with a light-handed wit." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Emily Rhode is 30. She's attractive and lives in happenin' New York. Her father left when she was 5 years old, she's hardly seen him for 25 years, but he'll soon turn up in this story. Her mother is needy, manipulative, lonely, shallow and narcissistic. Her sister, Marjorie, is shallow and narcissistic, married, expecting a baby and so willfully incompetent that she hires someone to buy all her clothes.... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Emily thinks she may be in love with Sam, but he only turns up in a few scenes. There's also Will, a man at work who asks her out; Perry, a gay friend; and her shrink, who asks her penetrating questions as she tries to find herself. Oddly, she doesn't have a girlfriend. And only Emily is fleshed out in any way here. This is a form of classic chick lit. Those are the characters; here is the back story: Since her attorney-father has been so neglectful and conspicuously absent, Emily goes to law school and gets a job at a prestigious law firm, where she works like a galley slave. Her sister, remember, has taken the other path and presumably spends life on a chaise-longue eating bonbons. Then Emily's mother gets breast cancer and announces she's dying. She tells this to everybody she's ever known. Emily quits the job where she's on track to be partner. She moves in with her mother to take care of her and help her through this crisis. Unexpectedly, her dad drops by to check on his ex-wife after he hears the alarming news, and offers Emily a job at his own firm — as a receptionist. The inquiring reader might want to know why he doesn't hire her on as a regular attorney or why the eternally lolling Marjorie doesn't lend a hand taking care of her mother, but the author may well be setting up a fictional triad of the possibilities for women: Get a traditionally male job and work until you're dizzy, stay home and reproduce the species, or work at a low-pay, dead-end job until you get old and die. It really doesn't matter, because — again — this is chick lit. 'Ask Again Later' is by Jill A. Davis, who used to write for David Letterman and published a bestseller called 'Girls' Poker Night' in 2002. Reading her new novel, I believe I can say I've unlocked the secret of this astoundingly popular genre (and the correlative secret of why the highly hyped 'Lad Lit' lasted about as long as a raw oyster under a sunlamp). If you were to line up Marjorie, the sister; Wendy, the office manager; Perry, the gay guy; Will, the bad date; Sam, the love of her life; and Emily's mom and dad, you couldn't tell them apart because they have no distinguishing features. They all talk alike and — aside from that elusive father — have dispositions that range from bad to disagreeable. They don't appear to dress in any particular way, except for Emily's mom, who irritatingly dolls up in silk pajamas and matching slippers after her operation or, before she goes into the hospital but after she's made her death announcement, sports 'jeans, a blue cashmere sweater, and matching driving moccasins. Her hair is up. She's wearing lapis teardrop earrings and a lapis beaded necklace. Her nails are freshly painted with a shade of red called I'm-Not-A-Waitress.' So, yes, you could recognize her mom. Think about chicks for a minute. They are the nameless girls who wait for boys to finish their interminable rehearsals in awful garage bands. They are the wives who accompany their husbands to business dinners and the next day someone ducks into the husband's cubicle and asks, 'How's the missus?' They are the young honeys who get whistled at on the street and get mad about it, and then the workers stop whistling and they get sad about it. Chicks will grow up to be old ladies who send supermarket greeting cards and newspaper clippings that aren't relevant to anything. Chicks never get to have it their own way. Go to a dinner party, even now, and see who does the talking. Every woman's magazine or self-help book still tells a young girl to learn to be a good listener. The reason for this is that, unless she exerts herself mightily, she may easily go through her whole life and never get a word in edgewise. But not in chick lit! Because these stories belong to the chick. Everyone else in the cast of characters exists only to glorify and valorize the chick. Here, everyone who isn't Emily has the moral compass of a beanbag. Sam, the supposed love of her life, is so sensitive that, hearing about her mother's cancer, he says, 'Cancer? Oh, Emily, I'm so sorry. How is she coping?' And a page and a half later: 'We're almost finished with this project. Let's go skiing. Maybe Vermont or Lake Placid?' Her father, after he's hired Emily to work at his firm, suggests, regarding her mother's cancer: 'Have you considered turning this hiatus into something really special? ... You could stay in some wonderful old hotels. The lake region of Italy is fabulous.' Marjorie totally brushes off the cancer thing (and another very tough event). Even her mother, as soon as she recovers from her surgery, thoughtlessly sends her daughter packing. Emily is used, abandoned, manipulated, misunderstood and, above all, never recognized. She says it all on the first page here: 'I am Emily. Emily Rhode. When I was in second grade, I experimented with changing my identity by misspelling my last name. ... Almost no one ever noticed the way my name was spelled.' Being a chick means you have a shelf life from about 13 to 30. Then it's anonymity forever. 'Ask Again Later' is about a first-rate person (at least in her own eyes) learning to live in a world that, no matter what she does, accords her no importance, no value, but at least she gets her say. So-called 'Lad Lit' never got off the ground because, to paraphrase the musical group, males go from boys to men. They write coming-of-age-books, tales of how they got to be so wonderful. Chick lit seems light but takes a more jaundiced view, where the girl-in-question is surrounded by a set of second or third choices, but at least the girl is the star, and only girl friends are granted emotional parity. (That's probably why there isn't one here.) These books are greedily bought and ravenously read by 'chicks,' who, contrary to the thinking of condescending, derisive bigwigs at various publishing houses (the ones who coined the term 'chick lit' in the first place), are actual human beings who live their lives as authentically as anybody else: who can think, read and write, and muster up enough money to purchase books that reflect existence as they see it." Reviewed by Dennis Drabelle, who is mysteries editor of The Washington Post Book WorldPatrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.comCarolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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From the author of the "New York Times" bestseller "Girls' Poker Night" comesthe hilarious yet poignant story of a woman trying to resist the urge to livewith one foot constantly out the door.
About the Author
Jill A. Davis was a writer for Late Show with David Letterman, where she received five Emmy nominations. She has also written several television pilots and movie screenplays in addition to short stories. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.
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