In the pantheon of books about twentysomething and thirtysomething career women in Manhattan, that enchanted island off the coast of America, there are usually two very separate camps to which these characters belong. One is the world of perfect beauty and almost perfect employment with lots of money and exciting places to see and be seen; the other is the world where you wear pink Michelin Man down jackets and get caught in unexpected rain showers just as you encounter the man of your would-be dreams after you get fired from your job. I might be a little simplistic here, but so are most of these career girl tomes. However, Paula Froelich, a “Page Six” reporter, has upgraded the usual Manhattan damsel-in-distress story to a comedy of serious errors in MERCURY IN RETROGRADE.
Three women whose lives are in various stages of disarray move into the same apartment building and try to start over, finding intersections between their experiences that none of them ever would have thought possible before. Having just lost one job at a tabloid where she had struggled for an unlucky seven years, Penelope Mercury is now the associate producer of New York's OTHER cable access news station, a position she found through a friend who convinces her to help him get an apartment in her building for a wealthy young fashion editor, Lena "Lipstick Carcrash" Lipp, who has been released from her very hefty monthly allowance. A third graduate of the school of hard knocks, a brilliant attorney named Dana Gluck, loses her seemingly perfect husband of two years to a Eurotrash fashion model. Together, these ladies try their hardest to make better futures while exploring their newfound friendships.
When Penelope, Lipstick and Dana begin taking a yoga class in Dana's apartment, their strange triumvirate of transitional career girls makes for a perfect alignment of their singular social planets. But their varied and demented satellites push forward their girl-power tale with the right amount of hysterical caricature. Marge, Penelope's crazy boss with too much plastic surgery, becomes a raucous portrait of power-hungry insanity with a touch of OCD and a smidge of list-making craziness. Zach, the cute painter who also lives in the apartment building, gives artsy-fartsy a good name and provides a serious chunk of beefcake for this estrogen-heavy novel. Lipstick and Penelope's parents, who constantly harangue Penelope about having a job and being grateful for it, and Lipstick's parents, who are a bit dim and take a long time figuring out that Lipstick isn't coming home, make for decent generational foils.
MERCURY IN RETROGRADE is truly a summer read. It’s romantic, funny, fairly self-explanatory, a perfectly frothy concoction, a Cosmopolitan, if you will (to borrow the favorite drink of Manhattan's most famous career-driven heroines), that will find its way from one beachcomber to another throughout the hot, humid months.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 7, 2011
Mercury in Retrograde