Book Review:  A Book About Writers…By An Insider

Publication date:  2009

Category:  Humorous American Literature

Review, short version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, long version:

It’s been a long, long time since I finished a book, closed it, and…

Smiled.

No – grinned.

Then I went back and reread the ending, and smiled…

And grinned…

Again.

The book is The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax.

It’s about four women writers who are great friends, and of great support to each other.

It’s about where their writing takes them, and the trouble they get into.

Their friendship is tested, and their future – both as writers and as friends – is in doubt.

Sounded like a winner to me, and to me – it was.

The only thing that kept me from giving it four roses was Kendall.

Kendall is one of the four writers, and while the other three – Mallory, Tanya and Faye – get plenty of time in the book, Kendall is the lead character.

Kendall has an agent, a publisher and an editor, she’s published a number of books, and she’s considered a “midlist” author, which means her books sell, though we’re not talking New York Times bestseller here. 

What Kendall has is a writing career – what so many writers can only dream about. 

But Kendall isn’t happy.  Her beloved editor left the publishing house, and her new editor is the Bitch from Hell.

And the Bitch has decided against signing another book contract with Kendall, which means Kendall is being dropped by the publisher.  Kendall is under contract to produce one more book, and the deadline is in a few months.  If she doesn’t meet the deadline, she’ll have to return her $30,000 advance.

A $30,000 advance – again, just a dream for so many writers.

But instead of grinding out the book, Kendall goes into a funk. 

While Kendall is moping around, she learns that her husband of 23 years is having an affair.  He leaves her for the other woman.

The other, younger woman.

Kendall transitions from a funk into a major tailspin.  She holes up in her house.  She binges on junk food, she doesn’t shower, and she sure isn’t writing.

And her three writer friends?

Kendall doesn’t respond to their concerned texts and emails.  They’re trying to offer Kendall their love and support, and – reasonably – looking for Kendall’s in return.  But this two-way street has turned into a dead end.

Kendall is too busy having her Pity Party.

Kendall’s husband is gone, her kids are at college, so she decides to get away, to a home in the mountains she inherited from her grandparents.

Sure – we all have one of those to run off to.

Kendall doesn’t have a day job and do her writing on the side, but apparently she somehow has an inexhaustible source of funds.

Just like you and me, right?

And at the house in the mountains?  New location, same scenario:  Junk food, no showering, no writing.

I got very weary of Kendall and her Pity Party.

Fortunately, it comes to an end when Mallory, Tanya and Faye collectively push, pull, and finally drag Kendall back to life.

And then…

Let the games begin!

Wendy Wax does a good job of delineating her characters, and they’re very different from each other except in their need to write and desire to be published.  Wax also gives us an insider’s look at the book publishing business, and it is…

Ugly.

There are references to “the arbitrariness and brutality” of the industry; how producing a finished manuscript is like “giving birth,” and then putting “the baby in the hands of people who would either ignore it or abuse it”; and how authors “were thrown out there, much like shit flung at a wall, while the publisher waited to see who ‘stuck.’”

And Wax would know – she’s published 18 books, which means she’s been flung at that wall a lot.

So we come to The Accidental Bestseller’s ending, and my smiles and grins. 

I hope you read it, and do the same.

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