One of the least pleasant airports in which to get stuck, in my opinion, is Chicago O'Hare. There I was: tired, hungry, grumpy, and wanting nothing more than to get home. My flight had been cancelled due to weather, and I was facing a 6 hr wait. I had only a few chapters left in my book, so I obviously needed a new one. Whoever stocked the bookstore was obviously not on the same wavelength with me, because it took me nearly half an hour to find something I wanted to purchase. It was worth the aggravation, however, because the book I ended up with turned out to be a real gem.
Ask Again Later is the story of Emily, a Manhattan lawyer whose dysfunctional childhood has left her unable to commit to her boyfriend, to her job, to living her life. One day she gets a phone call from her mother, saying, "They've found a lump." Emily leaves everything, putting her life on hold, to be with her mother.
But no, you're not getting a weepy or heavy tale in the least — Emily's mother is a born drama queen, her absent father surfaces from the woodwork, she becomes a receptionist in his law firm, keeps dodging her boyfriend, and moves in with her mother who is more concerned with taking partner yoga classes and redecorating than she is with her cancer. Out come a lifetime's worth of neuroses, astute and hilarious observations on life, liberty, and the pursuit of not only her mother's health, but her own selfhood.
Written in short, titled vignettes, like flashes of a movie, the book can be devoured in one sitting, or over a long period of time. I recommended it to my friend Gina, who has a young daughter: she said she can only get a few pages read at night before she crashes — the short "chapters" make it ideal for that.
I'm hesitant to call this book "chick lit", because for all of its comedy and light-heartedness, there are such deep themes and wise realizations embedded in it. The quality of writing — the intelligence of the prose, the wittiness of the language — really elevate it to where I just want to call it "literature" pure and simple.
The author, Jill A. Davis, was a five-time Emmy nominated writer for the Late Show with David Letterman. She's written extensively for both the large and small screens, as well as writing short stories and a previous novel, Girls' Poker Night. I must say I fell in love with her voice and manner of telling a story. She's certainly an author to watch.
Here are two excerpts from Ask Again Later:
I DAYDREAM — AND GET paid for it. I recall a scene from An officer and a Gentleman. At the end of the movie Richard Gere, dressed in his naval whites, goes into a factory, picks up Debra Winger, and carries her out of that depressing place with all those dirty machines.
I AM IN MY NEW kitchen thinking about myself. I am envying my own life up to this point. I am that person. The one who buys the gigantic, shiny coffee-espresso-latte-cappuccino machine in hopes that it will replace or enhance my internal life.
At times I felt there was a little bit of a distance between the narrator and the reader — humor and witticisms were used by the character of Emily from really being intimate with people and with life, but at times that translated to the reader as well. And yet, that was a part of who the narrator was, keeping everyone and everything at arm's length, so my desire of intimacy should not be imposed on the character. All in all, it was a brilliant read and well worth picking up.
Glam Review: A-