TW: Domestic abuse and rape
I enjoyed this more than a 2-star rating would imply, but I still think it's a 2-star book. This book is a quintessential beach read - totally readable, entertaining, and quick, with an addictive but ultimately inconsequential plot. Bit of a soap opera. Probably the closest I get to reading "chick-lit."
Monique is an up-and-coming journalist with little-to-no self confidence, working for a local NYC magazine, when out of the blue, her boss gets a call asking for Monique to work a very special project. Evelyn Hugo, famed Hollywood actress and beauty, wants Monique - and no one else - to interview her. Baffled, Monique agrees, and begins meeting with Evelyn daily to hear her life's story, mainly consisting of how and why she was married seven times.
Where the book succeeds is keeping the reader engaged and wanting to turn the page, because we need to know all the things! We need to know why all the husbands, who was the love of her life, and why she chose Monique, of all people, to tell her story. I also appreciated the handling of queer characters, and what they had to do, or felt they had to do, to hide their own identities in Hollywood in the 1950's.
Where it fails is a longer list...
Evelyn is born a poor, Cuban-American woman in NYC, but as she alters and "upgrades" her persona and look to be more appealing to a mass market, she leaves behind her Latinx roots. She goes blonde, and stops speaking Spanish (but then gets annoyed years later when her Spanish-speaking maid has no idea that she's half Cuban). It was a missed opportunity to tell a more nuanced story about the sacrifices she had to make, and the culture she had to leave, to find success.
And speaking of a non-nuanced depiction of a non-white American, Monique is biracial, with a white mother and Black father, and it's treated like... I don't know. Like a fact about what kind of shoes she likes to wear. Maybe flippant is the right word? Again, no nuance, no digging deeper into how that has affected her, or her relationships with her (white) husband or her (Black) boss. It's interesting - I can't quite put my finger on why it felt a little icky. I do know, however, that Jenkins-Reid herself is white. So. *shrug* Do with that what you will.
The dialogue felt like it was written by a grade schooler. The depictions of the romantic relationships were superficial and a not very believable. Most of the characters weren't very likable. The writing is repetitive and spells out too much for the reader.
But! Guess what? I still sped through it and finished it in two days, and I cried at the end. So, it's definitely not all bad! I recommend it for anyone looking to be entertained, but not challenged.
UP NEXT: Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo," by Zora Neale Hurston