Book Talk Tuesday: The Next Best Thing

I was a little surprised to get a call last week from the library saying the book I had requested was ready to be picked up. I couldn’t remember requesting anything, but figured maybe I’d been sleep browsing.

I was still more surprised when I saw Jennifer Weiner’s The Next Best Thing waiting with my name on it.

I’ve heard of Weiner but hadn’t read anything by her yet. So she’s been on my “Get-around-to-her-one-of-these-days” list for a long time. I know I saw her on the Today show a few months ago talking about her latest book with Harlan Coben, whom I love. I presume that combined with reading a few reviews convinced me to request this.

I’m glad I did.

It’s not inspirational fiction. But it’s not as gratuitous as it could have been. Upfront warning: There were two parts I skimmed over.

The voice is lively and likeable. The characters are not the usual Hollywood archetypes even though they work there.

Ruthie Saunders lost her parents in a car accident that also left her scarred and needing years of plastic surgery. Now all grown up, she and her grandma move to LA to tackle the world of television writing.

The book takes Ruthie and her new show through pilot season on to the network’s fall schedule.

Weiner has worked in Hollywood and her insider knowledge makes Ruthie particularly sharp in her observations. She acknowledges her own failings in standing up to the network for her vision and her show, and debates what constitutes the greater good.

Ruthie’s scars are visible but Weiner shows us that others have wounds just as deep and painful, though hidden.

My criticism is extremely picky. As a native Californian, I know you don’t drive from Massachusetts to California and see Yosemite on the way. Particularly if your last night before arriving in LA is spent in Las Vegas. Maybe Weiner meant Yellowstone.

And Ruthie references an online journal that published her short story and she says she was paid in contributor copies. Now I’ve been published online and in magazines. I’ve been paid in contributor copies. But only for print magazines. I don’t see how an online journal can send contributor copies.

Both of those are teeny tiny points that prove what a petty person I really am, so there you go.

Over all, I enjoyed The Next Best Thing a lot and will move Weiner higher up on my “When-I-get-around-to-it” list.

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