What makes Wollie Shelley so endearing? She's so not
the sort of person I normally read about, or even hang out with.
Yet, in this second book by the amazingly talented Harley Jane
Kozak, I warmed to her again. Is it because she has such good
friends who stand by her? Is it her absolutely down-to-earth way of
dealing with her brother, whose schizophrenia makes him difficult
to cope with even on the best of days? Is it simply her good heart
and caring about people in fast-paced, often-sleazy LA? Beats
When we reenter Wollie's world, she's without a job, a place to
live, or a fiancé. She lost the card shop and her apartment,
and moved in with Doc, but he's gone to Taiwan so she's
house-sitting. There are some weird custody things going on with
her fiancé's cool kid Ruby, and they're out of the picture for
some months, so Wollie is at rather loose ends. And while she does
have a gig painting a frog mural, it's not a full-time job.
Wollie isn't exactly naïve nor in any way dumb; rather she's a
tad artless, maybe "guileless" would be a better word. No one could
be that clueless with all she juggles, including her brother P.B.
But appearing on a two-bit, awful, sleazy cable "reality show"
called "Biological Clock"? To get a boyfriend? Okay, sure Doc is
gone, at least for a while, but this is what she's resorting to?
Tsk. Her friends aren't doing her any favors here, helping her snag
a guy this way. Granted that's probably pretty difficult in Los
Angeles, but yuck, what a waste of time. She really is too smart
for that, and way too nice.
Wollie's friend Annika has simply disappeared, and Annika's mother
calls from Germany, worried about her daughter. Annika works as an
au pair and has been pretty reliable. So Wollie, who has a
hard time saying "no" to almost anyone, takes it on herself to try
to find Annika. It's a weird world, that of young foreign women who
come to the U.S. to take care of kids and be household aides, but
Wollie is good at finding things out and she is always willing to
listen to people, so they talk to her.
And then there's Simon. I'm not sure about Simon. Not for
the same reasons as her mother and uncle, although the FBI isn't my
favorite federal agency either. It's more the way he came into
Wollie's life; just not quite believable. But that's fairly minor.
And there was a clue that I knew --- I kept wanting to raise my
hand and go "ooh, ooh, I know, I know" --- but again, it probably
is pretty esoteric stuff that not everyone would know. (Saying it
that way makes me sound so cool, doesn't it? Much better than, for
example, saying, "Man I sure know a lot of trivia.")
The book does suffer from TAMS --- truly annoying mother syndrome.
Why is it that authors feel that it's necessary to create these
witches? Wollie's "I'm so in touch with my inner whatever" mother
moves in, taking her daughter's bed, cashmere sweater, and privacy
without a thought. It's a bit formulaic, and while Wollie suffers,
I do wish she'd pack Mom's bags and give her the address to the
nearest Zen temple.
In Kozak's favor is her other characters. She seems to get children
just right and never presents P.B. as pathetic or scary; his
illness --- like any other thing Wollie deals with --- is just
something to understand and work on. So he has a mental illness?
Wollie deals with it as she deals with most things ---
matter-of-factly --- as she would if her brother had asthma or any
other physical or mental condition. She copes, and her
down-to-earth dealing with the situation is one thing that
makes me like her a lot. I want her to succeed, and I certainly
want to know what happens next time.
This book is fresh and delightful, much like the first in the
series, DATING DEAD MEN. I'm still puzzled about Wollie, but I
can't help but like her and root for her. And if she comes my way,
I'll introduce her to some nice guys who will appreciate her for
her good heart, warmth and wit, so we can get her to stop wasting
her time on dumb TV shows.
Reviewed by Andi Shechter on January 7, 2011