Monday, February 9, 2009

Book Review: This One is Mine by Maria Semple

Violet Parry is an LA woman with everything: a successful and faithful husband, a beautiful toddler, and so much cash that she drops $300 on premium chocolate just because she feels sorry for the store. Since quitting her TV writing job though, she feels dangerously isolated in her expensive house and just might do something reckless…

Sally Parry, Violet’s sister-in-law, has just one thing on her mind (other than herself) and that is marrying a man whose star is on the rise. She has her sights set on someone, and this time, no one, especially not her chosen prey, is going to keep her from getting what she wants…

This is not the type of book I usually read, but when I heard that Author Maria Semple was a writer for the TV show Arrested Development (my favorite TV comedy of all time), I decided to give it a go. Arrested Development was not only brilliantly hilarious, it also excelled in making the viewer sympathize with characters that were extremely unlikable.

True to the Arrested Development mold, Violet, Sally and most of the supporting characters are extremely egocentric, make very bad decisions and are not the type of people you would ever want as friends. But somehow, you do end up caring about what happens to them. And yes, there are many absurdly funny scenes. There are also mentions of diseases as diverse as autism, diabetes and hepatitis C, but refreshingly, none of these are played for laughs.

I read the first few chapters aloud to Daniel and he enjoyed the authentic LA feel of the novel (he lived there for 5 years), but he said had trouble concentrating so he’ll finish it on his own (yeah, right!).

There is a heart buried deep within all this dysfunction, and I think it is perfectly expressed by the Hafiz poem Semple chose to include at the beginning of the book:

Someone put
You on a slave block
And the unreal bought
You

Now I keep coming to your owner
Saying
“This one is mine.”
You often overhear us talking
And this can make your heart leap
With excitement.

Don’t worry,
I will not let sadness
Possess you.

I will gladly borrow all the gold
I need

To get you
Back.

This One is Mine is available in hardcover now.

14 comments:

Jill said...

This was an interesting mix of amusing and disturbing...a different sort of read, for sure. Not for everyone...but I enjoyed it

bermudaonion said...

I enjoyed this book, but it's still hard for me to fathom people being like that.

Beth Kephart said...

Once again, you have taught me all I need to know about a book.

:)

Thank you.

Jackie said...

Wow! $300 chocolate! Sounds good to me.

Christina Farley said...

I can't imagine spending that much on chocolate. This sounds like a really different kind of book.

Alea said...

I was drawn to it because of the Arrested Development link as well but decided to pass on it for now, maybe someday! I really like the cover though!

Reader Rabbit said...

Wow, expensive chocolate.
It sounds like a really unique book but I'll probably pass it along for now. :) Maybe one day...

Lenore said...

Yes, there were parts that were very disturbing - but it is played as comedy so it doesn't seem AS bad as it would be in a drama.

And I'd sure like to try $300 chocolate myself.

Peterandfriends said...

Ditto to bermudaonion. I don't like LA based books, way too self-absorbed and material-driven.

We liked Arrested Development, too! Thanks for letting us know this is the same writer.

S. Krishna said...

Nice review! This one was a bit odd, but you're right there is heart at the center of it!

Dar said...

I've got this one on my shelf to read yet. I've seen mixed reviews on it so I'm not sure whether to be excited to read it or not. Great review as usual.

Caretoknow said...
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Joanne said...

I had to read this one after hearing the author wrote for Mad About You. Most reviewer mention the Arrested Development connection, like you have. Is it bad that I've never seen this show? I feel like I'm missing out on a good program :)

Ladytink_534 said...

I doubt I would have picked it up based on the premise either but I'll have to recommend it to my mom. I think Arrested Development is one of her favorite shows.