About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Monday, July 23, 2012

#64: Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine, by Anna Quindlen
(New York: Random House, 2006)
"From Anna Quindlen, acclaimed author of Blessings, Black and Blue, and One True Thing, a superb novel about two sisters, the true meaning of success, and the qualities in life that matter most.

It’s an otherwise ordinary Monday when Meghan Fitzmaurice’s perfect life hits a wall. A household name as the host of Rise and Shine, the country’s highest-rated morning talk show, Meghan cuts to a commercial break–but not before she mutters two forbidden words into her open mike.

In an instant, it’s the end of an era, not only for Meghan, who is unaccustomed to dealing with adversity, but also for her younger sister, Bridget, a social worker in the Bronx who has always lived in Meghan’s long shadow. The effect of Meghan’s on-air truth telling reverberates through both their lives, affecting Meghan’s son, husband, friends, and fans, as well as Bridget’s perception of her sister, their complex childhood, and herself. What follows is a story about how, in very different ways, the Fitzmaurice women adapt, survive, and manage to bring the whole teeming world of New York to heel by dint of their smart mouths, quick wits, and the powerful connection between them that even the worst tragedy cannot shatter."

Opening Line:
"From time to time some stranger will ask me how I can bear to live in New York City."

My Take:
Started this on the plane from Syracuse to Philadelphia to Boston last night (I don't remember exactly which leg I was on or which airport I was cooling my heels in at the time) and it's promising; I usually like Quindlen. Stay tuned.  

(time passes)

Pretty darned good. Meatier and more nuanced than a lot of the bourgeois upper-class porn I've read, which is a lot. (And hey, I mean "porn" in the sense of "sneaking a guilty peek into how the 1% or the 0.001% lives" sense, not the "50 shades" way.) Chiefly this is because Meghan is neither the narrator nor the book's chief focus. That would be her younger sister, Bridget, who leads a far more ordinary, low-profile life as a social worker, dating a much older cop. She's close to her famous sister, sure, but seems not all that interested in basking in her limelight; if anything, it's a distraction from their relationship. Rather than being a thin frame story for a book full of designer name-dropping, Rise and Shine is more about the effects of fame and wealth on those on its periphery: spouses, siblings, kids. 

If I have to pick a quibble, it's with the almost-too-perfect character of Leo, Meghan's son and Bridget's nephew. While he shows some flashes of normal youth -- being a bit untidy, bringing a stray kitten home to his aunt's apartment on a whim, buying way too many apples -- he's otherwise depicted as just so good-natured and unspoiled (despite a mother who makes $10 million a year and a father whose investment banking career is nothing to sneeze at either) that it seems too obvious a set-up for the "worst tragedy" alluded to in the publisher's blurb. As this is part of what saves the book from a too-perfectly-wrapped-up ending, though, I'll take it. Worth a read or a recommendation.

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