Reviewer Gordon Osmond : Gordon is a produced and award-winning playwright and author of: So You Think You Know English--A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don't Need One, Wet Firecrackers--The Unauthorized Autobiography of Gordon Osmond and his debut novel Slipping on Stardust.
He has reviewed books and stageplays for http://CurtainUp.com and for the Bertha Klausner International Literary Agency. He is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School and practiced law on Wall Street for many years before concentrating on writing fiction and non-fiction. You can find out more about Gordon by clicking HERE
Publisher:Lynn Steward Publishing
New York City has a well-deserved reputation for being at its most beautiful between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. For tourists, it’s a time for carefree gawking and shopping. For affluent resident professionals, it’s a time for stressful party giving, ostentatious gift giving, and general showing off. Author Steward knows the latter demographic well and portrays its year-end holiday experience with authenticity and accuracy in this, her debut novel.
The book’s central couple, Brett and Dana McGarry, are striving for Masters of the Universe status in very different arenas. Brett is a Wall Street associate on the verge of partnership in his prestigious law firm; Dana is a rising star in the firmament of B. (the company liked the period even though Ms. Steward doesn’t) Altman, a prestigious department store that interestingly closed its doors over the very same holiday period in 1989, fifteen years after the action of the novel.
The year is not the only thing that is ending in this book, for the McGarry marriage is clearly in the throes of its own seven-year itch. The matter is hardly helped by the all-encompassing challenges Dana faces at her store and the temptations that Brett encounters at his office.
In very few pages, author Steward introduces and provides thumbnail sketches of an astonishing number of supporting characters. This sense of clear efficiency prevails throughout the novel. The author brilliantly captures the lifestyle of the affluent New Yorker—the obsession with prestigious brands, the iconic, indeed, biblical status of The New York Times, the addiction to costly daily pampering routines—all portrayed with equal effectiveness in the film, Diary of a Mad Housewife.
For this reviewer, some of the novel’s central conflicts were set up unconvincingly. It’s not lawyerly to indict without evidence, but to avoid the accusation of being a “spoiler,” I’m going to leave to the readers of this novel to decide whether some of the crises its protagonists face arise from believable circumstances or rather from unconvincing scenarios occasionally assisted by outright coincidence.
The book is beautifully edited with exceptions too niggardly to mention. My only show-stopper was the report that the novel’s obligatory gay mascot was having romantic trouble with a character whose name was that of a man whose heterosexuality had never previously been questioned. Also, chapter lengths, which start normally at twelve pages, become excessively short as the novel progresses. To be sure, initial exposition takes up time and space, but two-to-three page chapters toward the end look very strange.
The writing style is more straightforward than inspired. For every “she was pleased to hear the cash registers of B Altman singing their secular carols inside the store,” or “More like her snow globe, Janice thought. She pictured Dana standing in a tiny glass-enclosed world, snow gently falling around her. Her world could be shaken but never broken. She was far too insulated,” there are many more tired clichés and bromides, none more pedestrian than the title of the book itself.
But for readers who want to experience, from a most serviceable and knowledgeable pen, the successes and stresses of affluent New Yorkers at a critical time for their City and in their lives, A Very Good Life is a very good choice for reading material.