Kristin Billerbeck is one of inspirational chick-lit’s favorite authors, and this latest novel set in Hollywood will give fans of the Spa Girls Collection and Ashley Stockingdale series plenty to enjoy.
Sable, Wyoming native Sarah Claire Winowski has a dream: to be hairstylist to the stars. Thanks to her cousin, Scott, who has made a name for himself as a consultant to the film world’s up and comers, she’s off to Hollywood to try her scissors on the rich and famous. Her demanding, narcissist salon owner, “Yoshi,” brings to mind the now infamous editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly from THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. Of course, Sarah has a lot to overcome before she can snip the first locks from anyone’s hair. Jealous co-workers try to make her look bad, her clothes are all wrong, and she is forced to change her name to the trendier “Sarah Winston.” A diehard cinemaphile, she needs to be blasé about film stars who frequent the salon and her new Hollywood world. Worst of all, back in Sable, her alcoholic mother has forfeited the $1,000 bail bond Sarah Claire inked and is off on new misadventures, sure to end in some sort of chaos.
On the brighter side, Sarah Claire finds herself surrounded by touchstones that remind her of all her favorite old movies. At one point, she’s weeping over Cary Grant’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And to make things even better, not only is she sharing trendy digs with her cousin Scott, she also has a dreamy new roommate, Dane Weston, who is “tall and angular and wearing a fedora, just like Humphrey Bogart.” For Sarah, it’s love at first sight, but Scott insists that Dane (who he calls Lurch) is mysteriously off bounds. Why? Readers will be left dangling until the last pages of the book, and I’ll admit, Billerbeck surprised me with the reason.
Throughout the novel, Sarah Claire battles a co-dependent relationship with her n’er-do-well mother and her own feelings of being an out-of-wedlock child whose father is unknown. (The identity of her father is given towards the end of the book.) Readers may find her constant self-deprecation about her less-than-stellar roots a little grating after a while. Suck it up Sarah Claire! Be grateful for what you have. More endearing is the sweet group of church ladies back home who offer Sarah Claire encouragement, cash and a few pushes in the right direction.
The book struggles in a few places. A lot of interesting troubles are introduced (Sarah Claire’s 43-year-old mother’s alcoholism, best friend Kate Halligan’s struggle with her identity), but they never feel fully developed or resolved. The salon itself seems like the perfect place for interesting scenes with Hollywood’s hottest stars, but not a lot takes place involving the clients. Some might be tired of the old novel cliché of “small town girl moves to the big city” that carries the plot, but perhaps the reason it’s a cliché is that many readers enjoy it.
If you’re a closet old movie fan, then you’ll find the cute quotes from film stars that begin each chapter an added bonus. Although problematic in spots, SPLIT ENDS is an entertaining read, sure to help vacation hours while sitting poolside or on the beach pass pleasantly.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on April 17, 2007