Review of LUCKY STARS by Jane Heller (see her website)
St. Martin's Press, April 2003
Rising actress Stacey Reiser has her life together. Her career is blossoming, she has good friends and a nice apartment. The only fly in the ointment is her interfering mother, who calls Stacey from Chicago every day and does nothing but criticize and butt into Stacey's privacy. But Stacey can handle it--until the unthinkable happens. Her mother decides to sell the house and move to Hollywood, only blocks from Stacey, where she becomes an unwanted fixture in Stacey's life.
From the moment Helen Reiser arrives in Hollywood, Stacey's life takes a downhill plunge. She gets a terrible review from influential movie critic Jack Rawlins in her first supporting role in a big movie, after which no one will touch her. Even when she tries to return to TV commercials, her bread-and-butter, she flubs every audition, mostly due to something her mother does. Her love life is in shambles, with Helen driving away every boyfriend prospect that shows up.
Just when Stacey thinks it can't get worse, it does. In a fluke of fate, Helen, a chronic consumer-complainer, gets the attention of an ailing tuna company, and they ask her to become their spokesperson. She becomes an overnight success, and suddenly she is living the life Stacey only dreamed of--guest appearances on Leno, celebrity parties, movie offers. And their roles reverse. Stacey finds herself criticizing her mother, interfering in her life, while her mother starts avoiding her.
This was a wonderful idea for a book, and the first two thirds rolled along hilariously. Any woman who's ever had a loving but interfering mother can relate to Stacey's predicament, and anyone who's had a run of bad luck can empathasize with Stacey's increasingly frantic attempts to turn her life back in the right direction.
Alas, the final chapters of the book sort of lose focus as Stacey attempts to extricate her mother from a romance with a guy she thinks killed his previous wife. Helen disappears into her star persona and the wit and humor of the mother-daughter relationship is lost. The climax is so over-the-top that I couldn't buy it. Still, the book overall is a good read, and I won't hesitate to try more of Ms. Heller's work. Her style is very engaging.
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