Remember when you were a child and you could trust your most
difficult questions to the wisdom of the Magic 8-Ball? The
protagonist of Jill A. Davis's second novel frequently echoes the
refrain of that childhood oracle. Whenever thirty-something Emily
Rhode is queried by friends on how she is doing, her familiar
refrain is that of the Magic 8-Ball: "Ask again later."
It's easy to see why this is the case. Emily is a harried corporate
attorney who has managed to tiptoe through the minefield of her
life, careful to avoid any major skirmishes or hard decisions.
She's currently skirting along the edges of a romance with a
divorced co-worker as she goes about her hectic job. But when she
learns that her mother has breast cancer, her whole tentative world
is turned upside down.
Emily has grown up in a not-so-unusually dysfunctional family in
New York City. Her dad left the family when she and her sister were
just children, and he's been like a phantom ever since --- someone
she never really knew. Emily's mother, a woman with a penchant for
dramatics, responds to her stage 1 cancer diagnosis by calling
everyone in her address book to tell them she's going to die.
Over-dramatized or not, the news of her mother's illness shakes
Emily to her core. And since her socialite sister is of little help
as she struggles to fit her new baby into her overly crowded social
schedule, Emily quits her high-pressure law job, flees from her
potential love interest and moves back in with her mother to care
for her during treatment.
A strange byproduct of her mother's illness is her renewed
relationship with her distant father. In an effort to help out
during this difficult time, Emily's dad offers her a nice,
low-pressure job as the receptionist in his office. Slowly she
begins to learn about this mercurial man she calls her father. But
as soon as her mother starts to recover, she is hit with an
unexpected loss that forces her to face her fears and fully
participate in her own life.
Davis, author of GIRLS' POKER NIGHT and a former writer for "The
Late Show with David Letterman," tackles real-life issues and
infuses these rather somber moments with requisite levity and
humor. Emily is a relatable woman, paralyzed at the prospect of
taking chances and making choices. She has drifted through life by
avoiding taking risks, but when a life-altering event occurs, Emily
learns to confront and later embrace the life she has long been
avoiding. As she observes, "Eventually the training wheels have to
come off and it's always a surprise when you find that you don't
ASK AGAIN LATER is about growing up, reconciling your past and
looking towards the future with anticipation and a much-needed
sense of humor.
Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on January 7, 2011
Ask Again Later