Current Reads

Desperate Housewife

Oprah fave Jane Hamilton's new potboiler is a wicked, fun ride.

Book Cover While I am not a big fan of Oprah Winfrey, I don’t hold it against any writer that Oprah (who is not a tasteless dummy) may have brought them the immense commercial benefits that seem to accrue from her majestic anointment(s). Apparently, Jane Hamilton (A Map of the World) is one such author. I have not read that book, but 10 years ago I did read The Short History of a Prince, which I found smart, funny, and honest—clearly, Wisconsin native Hamilton can turn a phrase and elegantly fabricate a narrative. Her new opus, Laura Rider’s Masterpiece (Grand Central Publishing), confirms my past judgment.

Set in a small Wisconsin town, we are immediately informed that the townspeople think Laura’s husband is gay. The joke is, of course, on them: Charlie is tirelessly heterosexual—so much so that after 12 years of marriage, Laura, who is worn out, bans him from her bedroom. Enter popular radio show host Jenna Faroli, whose blossoming relationship with Charlie becomes the instrument for Laura’s transformation into the artist (romance novelist) she aspires to be. Hamilton does a splendid job rendering the threesome’s unlikely situation plausible—no small thing. The author’s good-natured sense of humor is rendered more potent with the wicked little plot twists. I suppose excerpts of her prose are available at the tips of your fingers, but I like this fine exhibit of Hamilton’s writing persona.
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