Synopses & Reviews
I looked out the window and was filled with contentment. I was on a train. There was no landscape, ugly or beautiful, to demand my attention...None of the passengers within my view were badly dressed. I had the right book with me...I was happily married but alone, nothing in the immediate past to regret, nothing in the immediate future to fear. In between the best place to be.
At fifty, Grace Hanford has lived long enough to be a daughter, a stepdaughter, a girlfriend, a sister, a sister-in-law, a wife, a stepmother, and an orphan. She has fallen in and out of love with troublesome mean, with her glamorous mother, with her wild best friend, and with New York City more times than she can count. Still, Grace is more comic than melancholic, and a gifted confessor. She lives life as if every day is a movie in which her role is yet to be determined and her audience loves her for it.
In The Best Place to Be, we follow Grace from her fatherless childhood through her years at an all-girls college to adulthood in the city and her many dating escapades (and escapes) as an urban sophisticate. Wherever she may be, Grace tries to find her place in the world with humor and the blunt surprise of truth. And always, in the background, there is Grace's mother, brother, and the man she could or might or will call husband, out of reach until she reaches.
In the tradition of Melissa Bank's The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, The Best Place to Be is at once funny, moving, and deeply provocative, a love letter to the self-determined woman that shimmers with hilarious insight and graceful wit.
"Each of the eight related stories in Dormen's accomplished collection offers a snapshot from the scattershot life of Grace Hanford. 'Fifty and holding,' a child of divorce from Cleveland, Ohio, with decades of therapy and blind dates behind her, Grace has spent years 'dissecting the romantic lives of single women in their twenties and thirties' for Marvelous Woman magazine in New York City. Married to money-manager Richard, Grace has all the trappings of middle-age (the kitchen renovation, the 'looming face-lift') except children of her own (Richard has two from a previous marriage). The first and best story, 'The Old Economy Husband,' lays out Grace's life in Greenwich Village, where she's lived long enough to watch the UPS man go gray. While ghostwriting an etiquette book, she recognizes she has relinquished her earlier theories about love and chosen a man 'who made me feel like my fiercest, most clear-hearted twelve-year-old self.' Subsequent stories limn with less panache the transitional periods in Grace's life: attending Elmira College for Women circa 1964 ('The Secret of Drawing'), quarreling with her younger brother over their dead mother's effects ('Gladiators'), arranging a reunion with her estranged father ('Curvy'). Dormen's narrator takes plenty of knocks, making the happiness she finds all the sweeter. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information)
"Lesley Dormen's funny, bittersweet tale is the knowing portrait of a particular yet archetypal modern woman caught between the demands of her family and her personal ambitions. What captivated me most, however, was the shadow portrait in these pages: a fine cameo of millennial New York, rendered with the same sly, satiric affection that Steve Martin lavished on Los Angeles in Shopgirl." Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and The Whole World Over
"Whether she's spending Thanksgiving in Rome watching reruns of the Kennedy assassination, trying to talk her mother out of her face-lift fund so she can pay down her credit card debt, interviewing marriage counselors in Starbucks, or trying to outsmart her larcenous housekeeper, Grace Hanford's life makes perfect postmodern sense. The Best Place to Be is smart, funny, and completely delightful; it's going to make a lot of readers very happy." Kathryn Harrison, author of Envy and The Kiss
"The Best Place to Be is a terrific debut. Smart, funny, wise, and altogether heartening. These linked stories read like dispatches from the front of modern womanhood. Lesley Dormen has crafted this book so carefully and elegantly that you might not notice how beautifully it's written. Notice. She's the real deal." Dani Shapiro, author of Family History and Black & White
"Grace is not a real person. Rather, she is the voice of Lesley Dormen's beautifully realized collection of linked short stories, The Best Place To Be. And she is a wise guide whom many readers will instantly wish they had as a friend." Hartford Courant
"Emerging writer Dormen's engaging fiction moves at a fluid pace with an equally affecting sense of poignancy and humor." Booklist
"Dormen creates realistic characters who could live next door, and she writes about experiences common to all of us. This engaging work will strike a chord with anyone who is '50 and holding.' Recommended..." Library Journal
"Dormen's stories are often delightfully, crushingly funny."
-- New York Times Book Review
"A journey that is smack-your-forehead familiar, and so crazily funny you could cry."
-- O Magazine
"Virginia Woolf meets Candace Bushnell in these funny, beautifully written linked stories."
-- Elle Reader's Prize Judge
About the Author
Lesley Dormen was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Her short stories have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and other literary magazines and anthologies. She teaches fiction writing at the Writers Studio in Greenwich Village, where she lives with her husband.
Table of Contents
The Old Economy Husband
Figure of a Woman
The Secret of Drawing
I Asked My Mother
The Best Place to Be