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Don't Make a Scene

Review

Don't Make a Scene

As
an average single woman-about-town, I enjoy a good romance (read
"chick-lit") as much as the next gal. I read BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY
and saw the movies (both of them!), and I have worshipped at the
shrine of Mr. Darcy (the ultimate chick-lit hero). But as the years
roll by (and yes, mother, I still have not met Mr. Right),
some of those stories start feeling a little stale. It's one thing
to be adorably single and in a dead-end job when you're 29 or 30
--- but the cuteness wears thin when you're beginning to look 40 in
the face.

That's the great thing about Valerie Block and her new novel, DON'T
MAKE A SCENE. It's a breath of fresh air in the sometimes-stale
world of modern women's fiction.

Block's heroine, Diane Kurasik, is no starry-eyed twentysomething
with a dead-end job in publishing. She's 39 years old, a passionate
film connoisseur with her own classic theater (the Bedford Street
Cinema) and a great rent-controlled apartment in the Village. What
more could a woman want? Well, true love, for one thing. Like
single women everywhere, Diane bemoans the frustrations of Dating
Hell:

"A man's complete attention wasn't a realistic possibility at this
late stage of the game. All the generalists --- the easygoing,
well-adjusted fellows such as her father, her brother-in-law, the
husbands of most of her friends --- who were capable of giving
their complete attention to a woman, had married before the age of
thirty. The remainder tended to be specialists, obsessed with
something --- often their work, but not always. In twenty-five
years of dating, fifteen of them dedicated exclusively to
specialists, she'd met Lactose Intolerant Man, Open Up American
Trade with Vietnam Man, Blues Man, Bluegrass Man, Second Amendment
Man, and Windsurf Man."

What modern woman over 30 can't relate to this?

As the charm of being single grows increasingly thin, the
unthinkable happens --- Diane loses her lease on her apartment and
is evicted. She hunts for a new affordable Manhattan apartment
(something that, I know firsthand, can only be compared to Dante's
Seventh Circle of Hell) while staying on the couches of friends. In
the midst of this search, Diane begins some much-needed renovation
work on her theater --- and meets the most Special Specialist of
them all, Vladimir Hurtado Padrón, a sexy Cuban architect with
a handful of issues, complications, a 17-year-old son, and an
estranged wife in Cuba who he hasn't seen in 10 years and who
refuses to give him a divorce.

Those who have read Block's previous books, WAS IT SOMETHING I
SAID? and NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, are already familiar with her
impeccable comic timing and well-drawn characters. Diane does not
disappoint, as she has the sly wit, warm personality and slightly
fractured charm that fans of Block have come to expect in their
heroines. As a Cuban-American myself, I was particularly enthralled
with Vladimir --- rarely have I come across a Cuban character
created by a non-Cuban author who was so realistic. And Block takes
a more balanced look at the situation in Cuba than one would expect
in this kind of novel.

While New Yorkers will appreciate the reality of the
apartment-hunting scenes more than most ("Aren't all New York
stories ultimately about real estate?"), and the references to
directors, film stars and classic movies of all genres will appeal
especially to cinema buffs, anyone looking for an absorbing story a
cut above the usual chick-lit fare will find something to love
about DON'T MAKE A SCENE.

Reviewed by Lourdes Orive on January 7, 2011

Don't Make a Scene
by Valerie Block

  • Publication Date: July 31, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345461851
  • ISBN-13: 9780345461858