Me Times Three
narrator Sandra Berlin has just discovered that her fiancé has been cheating on her with not one but two women. She's looking for a support group, one where "I could stand up and say, 'Hi, I'm Sandra and I'm a gullible, pathetic sap.'" Sandra's journey from sap to grownup provides the plot line for the first novel from Alex Witchel, a Style reporter for the New York Times
. But the real raison d'être of the novel is the opportunity for Witchel to flaunt her delightfully insiderish view of Manhattan. Sandra works for Jolie
, a fashion magazine that sounds a lot like Elle
, under the fearsome Susie, a mercurial editor who seems determined to ruin every story Sandra turns in. Plotting and character aren't Witchel's strong points, but the verisimilitude of her evocation of Manhattan media life makes Me Times Three
a fun, fluffy romp. --Claire Dederer
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From Publishers Weekly
New York Times Style reporter Witchel makes her initial foray into fiction with a darkly humorous take on a young woman's growing pains. In late 1980s New York, Sandra Berlin, an editorial assistant at fashion rag Jolie!, enjoys wild times with her requisitely gay best friend Paul Romano, but longs for a secure, suburban family life and ever-elusive social acceptance. She thinks her dreams are coming true when WASPy longtime boyfriend (and Betsy Ross descendant) Bucky finally proposes, and she plans "to waste no time propagating little heirs to the American flag." But she soon must scramble to regain her balance after the rug is pulled out from under her: she's not Bucky's only fiancie; in fact, two other women are preparing to walk down the aisle with him. The first half of the novel is pitched perfectly between humor and angst, but in the second half the plot takes a sobering turn. Sandra faces tragedy when the specter of AIDS raises its ugly head, and only then does she begin coping with the disillusionment of life's unexpected turns. The author will find an audience with readers who follow her in the Times, or who are curious about the talents of Mrs. Frank Rich. But this is a disappointing offering from a writer whose privileged perspective on the culture, manner and style of New York in its late 20th-century heyday might have yielded something less predictable, or at least more titillatingly revealing. (Feb. 1)Forecast: Witchel's name alone, stamped on an eye-catching bright yellow jacket, should sell out the novel's 75,000 first printing, but her future as a fiction writer is less certain.
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