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My Hollywoodby Mona Simpson
"Mona Simpson's fifth novel bears many a resemblance to its sprawling predecessors, among them her celebrated debut Anywhere but Here (1986), about a girl and her self-absorbed mother making an impetuous cross-country drive...." Abby Frucht, Philadelphia Inquirer (read the entire National Book Critic's Circle review)
Synopses & Reviews
From the much-loved author of Anywhere but Here and The Lost Father, a long-awaited novel — her first in ten years — about two women behind the glitter of Hollywood.
Claire, a composer and a new mother, comes to L.A. so her husband can follow his dream of writing TV comedy. Suddenly, the marriage changes, with Paul working all hours and Claire left with a baby, William, whom she adores but has no idea how to care for.
Enter Lola — a fifty-two-year-old mother of five who comes to work in America to pay for her own children’s higher education back in the Philippines. Lola stabilizes the rocky household, and soon other parents try to lure her away. What she sacrifices to stay with Claire and William remains her own closely guarded secret.
In a novel, at turns satirical and heartbreaking, where mothers’ modern ideas are given practical overhauls by nannies, we meet Lola’s vast network of fellow caregivers, each with her own story to tell. We see the upstairs competition for the best nanny and the downstairs competition for the best deal, and are forced to ask whether it’s possible to buy love for our children and what that transaction costs. We see the endangerment of a modern marriage despite the best of intentions. This tender, witty, and resonant novel provides the profound pleasures readers have come to expect from Mona Simpson, here writing at the height of her powers.
"In her first novel since Off Keck Road (2000), Simpson tells a blistering story of fractured love and flailing parents. Claire, a composer and new mother, has moved to Santa Monica, Calif., so that her husband, Paul, can follow his dreams of becoming a TV comedy writer. When Paul's job requires late nights, Claire, already overwhelmed with balancing motherhood and career, hires Lola, a middle-aged Filipina, to help with her son, William, and soon Lola's trying to plug holes in Claire and Paul's slowly sinking family ship. Claire and Lola narrate in alternating chapters; fragile and sometimes fierce Claire deploys a biting wit that shreds the pretensions that permeate her social life and her marriage, while Lola is more open-hearted and eager to help people, though she also draws laughs with her observations about wealthy families. The story both satirizes and earnestly assesses the failings of upper-middle-class L.A., and Simpson's taut prose allows her to drill into the heart of relationships, often times with a single biting sentence. Funny, smart, and filled with razor sharp observations about life and parenthood, Simpson's latest is well worth the wait. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Novel by novel, Simpson takes fresh and disquieting approaches to fractured families....In her arresting portrayals of Lola and her nanny and housekeeper friends, Simpson explores a facet of American society rarely depicted with such insight and appreciation." Booklist
"My Hollywood, Mona Simpson's beautifully realized new novel, tells the story of a bewildered new mother and the live-in nanny she hires so she can continue her work as a composer. An illustration of the difficulties of raising children in dual-career households, as well as the undervalued lives of the domestic workers summoned to help, it's one the most insightful books in years about contemporary American life." - Gregory Leon Miller, The San Francisco Chronicle
"Simpson is a virtuoso at allowing her characters to convey their internal landscapes in first-person voices suffused with personality, insight, and wit . . . The real richness of My Hollywood lies in Simpson’s gift for conveying enormous meaning in moments depicted so prosaically that they don’t reveal their significance at first glance." - Jessica Treadway, Boston Globe
"My Hollywood excels in the richness of its characterization of Lola, a woman no longer sure where or to whom she belongs: in her native country, where she employed servants, or in the U.S., where she is a servant? . . . Lola loves what she does. It doesn't seem a stretch to imagine her as representative of good nannies everywhere in the US, anxious to work despite a skill set you'd call limited. That is, until you saw her with your child." - Mary Pols, Time
"Simpson works her habitual magic, showing how love travels, ownerless and unbidden, among children who need adults, and adults who need children. 'Children, they are dependent for their life,' Lola observed, back in Santa Monica. But so are adults. Sitting with her friends, drinking 'nonfat lattes, ice blendeds, a dozen small consolations,' Claire asks, 'For what, exactly, were mothers always being consoled?' Simpson gently suggests an answer: for their fear of failing in their responsibilities, to their children and themselves, the extent of which they'll only know when their children grow up and tell them what they were." - Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review
A wonderfully provocative and appealing novel, from the much-loved author of Anywhere But Here and A Regular Guy, her first in ten years. It tells the story of two women whose lives entwine and unfold behind the glittery surface of Hollywood.
Claire, a composer and a new mother, comes to LA so her husband can follow his passion for writing television comedy. Suddenly the marriage—once a genuine 50/50 arrangement—changes, with Paul working long hours and Claire left at home with a baby, William, whom she adores but has no idea how to care for.
Lola, a fifty-two-year-old mother of five who is working in America to pay for her own childrens higher education back in the Philippines, becomes their nanny. Lola stabilizes the rocky household and soon other parents try to lure her away. What she sacrifices to stay with Claire and “Williamo” remains her own closely guarded secret.
In a novel at turns satirical and heartbreaking, where mothers modern ideas are given practical overhauls by nannies, we meet Lolas vast network of fellow caregivers, each with her own story to tell. We see the upstairs competition for the best nanny and the downstairs competition for the best deal, and are forced to ask whether it is possible to buy love for our children and what that transaction costs us all.
We look into two contemporary marriages—one in America and one in the Philippines—and witness their endangerment, despite the best of intentions.
My Hollywood is a tender, witty, and resonant novel that provides the profound pleasures readers have come to expect from Mona Simpson, here writing at the height of her powers.
About the Author
Mona Simpson is the author of four previous novels, including Anywhere but Here. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and a Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award. She lives in Santa Monica, California.
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