This One is Mine by Maria Semple
Violet Parry is bored. Bored, depressed and on the verge of of doing something reckless. Once a well-known TV writer, she gave up her job to become a stay-at-home mother to baby Dot and wife to hot-shot music exec David. However, she feels isolated by David’s busy career and apparent indifference to her, she feels unable to cope with Dot and leaves her with their nanny as often as possible and she has given up on the home improvements she imagined making. Instead, she drives listlessly around LA, constantly on the brink of tears, impulse buying designer hats and artisan chocolates. Then she meets Teddy Reyes. A down-and-out “musician”/drug addict who has an irresistible appeal to her. The sudden jolt of excitement throws her into a tailspin, desperately chasing an affair with Teddy, risking her marriage and her comfortable life.
Meanwhile, David’s sister Sally is chasing her own dream. As a diabetic she had to give up her ambition of dancing for a professional ballet company and relies on David to pay her doctors bills. Drifting along as a ballet coach to little girls, she sees her only way out of debt, and dependence on David, is to find a rich husband. And fast. So when she is introduced to up-and-coming sports reporter Jeremy White, the dollar signs flash in her eye and she immediately hits fast forward on their relationship, turning a blind eye to the fast emerging flaws.
I picked up this book because I loved Semple’s second book, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? so I was sure her debut novel would have the same mix of sassy humour and warmth. However, This One is Mine falls far short of it’s successor. The key plot points are ridiculous and full of holes so the story falls flat on it’s face before it even starts. For example, Jeremy clearly has Aspergers Syndrome, it’s blatantly obvious to the reader, and indeed all the other character in the book except Sally. She doesn’t find out until after their wedding and then feels betrayed by the fact that no one told her. Er….OK.
Even worse is the fact that all of the characters are repellent. Perhaps this is done on purpose, as a side-eyes look at the privileged lives of the LA media types. However, it really doesn’t come across this way. The casually racist way David and Violet refer to their nanny, the selfish, single-minded personality of Sally, Teddy Reyes. Teddy is another major sticking point for me. He is just gross. It is simply unbelievable that Violet would be attracted to him – she even says herself at several points that he is unclean with bad teeth, filthy fingernails and greasy hair. He has literally no redeeming features yet we are expected to buy that Violet loves him, that David accepts this and that Sally forgives him for giving her Hep C. Oops, spoiler alert – he uses one of her insulin needles AT HER WEDDING and infects her. But it’s OK ‘cos he’s a loveable rogue. Apparently. Ugh.
Sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant, but I was so disappointed in this one. Skip it and stick to Bernadette, it’s like night and day.