Review of THE NOT-SO-PERFECT MAN by Valerie Frankel
Avon Trade, January 2004
The three Schast sisters have three very different relationship problems. Gallery owner Frieda, widowed with a young son, still grieves for her beloved Gregg, so that every eligible man she meets falls short because he is instantly "not Gregg." Ilene, who claims to be deliriously happy with husband Peter, has lost her desire for her husband and is resentful toward him because he has become a compulsive eater and has gained forty pounds. She copes by trying to manage and control everyone else's lives. Little sister Betty hides behind a wall of excess weight, secret sexual fantasies, and biting humor.
Then Frieda meets Sam, a sexy, younger actor to whom she is so strongly attracted she can't think of anything but having sex with him. And since he's the first man she's met who isn't instantly "not Gregg," she succumbs, though her sisters strongly disapprove. As Ilene's marriage teeters on the brink of disaster, her husband sets out to improve himself (and Peter is more the protagonist in this subplot than Ilene is). And Betty meets a man who wants to improve her. Betty and Peter become diet buddies.
I've read a lot of "three sisters" books, but I've never seen one quite as well-blended as this one. Each sister's story is so closely woven with the others that it would be impossible to remove any of them without destroying the book. The sibling relationships ring true. This is not a hilarious, over-the-top chick lit as the cover and back-cover copy might indicate, but it will make you smile--and perhaps even cry on occasion. The ending was perfectly matched to the theme of the book, which is that no human being is perfect, and no one's relationship is perfect, and sometimes you just have to accept the good with the bad--yet you can still be happy.
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