You’re Snowed In
Are searching for your next memoir or are thinking about Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood and complicity
Hope you’re doing well. A friend and I took a flower arranging class last week and it was so much fun learning something new. I now have grand visions of myself becoming an expert florist. Most likely, I’ll get slightly better at artfully putting my Trader Joe’s flowers in their vase.
In other news, I’m excited to announce the launch of Meet Cute Missives, a new short-run essay collection about rom coms, on Tuesday, March 14. Essay topics include everything from Olivia Crandall, of Poorly Done Book Reviews, on the unique joy of watching bad romantic comedies to Mel Joulwan, founder of Strong Sense of Place, on Elinor Lipman’s books. Subscribe now, so you don’t miss it!
And, now, what to read if…
You’re Shoveling Snow
As I write this, I’m watching the snow fall outside my window. (It went from 80 on Thursday to snowing on Saturday here in D.C., a shift that has me concerned about the cherry blossoms.) It’s barely sticking to the ground here, but huge parts of the United States were hammered with storms last week. If the weather has you craving a snowy read, consider Kate Racculia’s Bellweather Rhapsody, a novel that combines a twisty murder mystery with a compelling coming-of-age story.
In 1982, a young girl, Minnie, clad in a cranberry bridesmaid’s dress, witnesses a horrific murder-suicide in room 712 of the Bellweather Hotel, nestled deep in the Catskills. Fifteen years later, during a statewide high school musical festival, Minnie returns to the resort to confront her past. After a blizzard leaves all the hotel’s guests — teens, their chaperones and Minnie — stuck, a flute prodigy disappears from room 712. Her mysterious vanishing forces all the characters to confront long-held secrets and the Bellweather’s dark past.
As my friends at Strong Sense of Place put it, this book is “kind of kooky — in a charming, page-turning way.” I found myself so caught up in it that I missed my subway stop. The characters are weird, but in a way that left me rooting for them, and Racculia seamlessly blends locked room and horror tropes with high school musical theater culture.
You Still Miss “Jane the Virgin”
“Jane the Virgin,” the CW’s beloved telenovela, has been off the air for almost four years now, and if you still find yourself seeking its signature mix of hilarity, heart-warming scenes and tear-jerking moments, check out Illegally Yours, a memoir from Rafael Agustin, a writer for the show. While there’s no amnesia plotline, Agustin’s depiction of growing up undocumented in the ‘90s is equal parts humorous and heart-breaking.
In the late ’80s, Agustin came to California from Ecuador with his mother and stepfather and stayed long after their tourist visas expired. His parents, both doctors in their home country, struggled to find work in the U.S. and Agustin bounced from school to school, as the family chased job opportunities. Still, his parents protected him from the precarity of their situation: He only learned of his immigration status when he attempted to get a driver’s license his junior year of high school.
Despite the difficulties he faced, Agustin’s book is filled with genuinely funny moments. The early chapters, describing his childhood in Ecuador, feel a bit sitcomy (in a good way) and Agustin’s obsession with Zach Morris of “Saved by the Bell” made me laugh. Illegally Yours shares an honest — and humorous — story that’s not often told.
You’re Wondering How (If?) the Oscars Will Address Harvey Weinstein’s Conviction
Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 16 (additional) years in prison for sex crimes committed in LA county last week. The exposure of the disgraced film producer — and multi-Oscar award winner — propelled the #MeToo movement in 2017. I’m curious to see if the Academy mentions Weinstein’s conviction at the annual movie awards next month, especially knowing just how many Hollywood bigwigs ignored his abusive behavior. Alison Hart explores that complicity in her stunning debut novel, The Work Wife.
The Work Wife follows three women all connected to King of Hollywood Ted Stabler — his wife, Holly, his former business partner, Phoebe and his executive assistant, Zanne — over the course of a single day, as they prepare for the It Event of the season. Zanne sees the night’s fundraiser as her chance at a promotion that will finally offer the financial stability she’s been seeking for years. Her plans hit a roadblock though, when Phoebe reappears after years away, and a reporter begins asking Holly, a #MeToo crusader, tough questions about her husband’s own behavior.
There’s been an understandable boomlet for Hollywood #MeToo novels in recent years and I think The Work Wife might be the best of all the ones I’ve read. It’s a subtle yet searing examination of privilege and power.
That’s it for me today. You can catch up on last week’s recs and my interview with Kate Clayborn. If you want even more book recs, I reviewed a new nonfiction book, 120 Days of Sodom, about a scandalous novel for the Washington Post(!).
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