BY HEIDI SUKE
Author: Paula Froelich
Filed under: Chick Lit
In her first novel, Mercury in Retrograde, Paula Froelich channels a less refined Plum Sykes or a less witty Candace Bushnell—and true to her previous gig as The New York Post’s Page Six gossip editor, her fictional attempt harnesses tidbits of New York society that only a gossip columnist could wrap her charms around.
The tale begins with the disclaimer “When Mercury is in retrograde, anything bad that can happen will.” One character’s name, not so cleverly, is Penelope Mercury, but she is no more a focus of the story than the other two main characters: Lena Lippencrass and Dana Gluck. Froelich superficially meanders through their not-so-charmed lives: Mercury is a down on her luck 27-year-old roving reporter who is gunning for a promotion but instead gets canned; Dana is a 30-something workaholic lawyer who has cloistered herself within the confines of her apartment since her husband left her for a Victoria’s Secret model; and Lena (referred to throughout most of the book as “Lipstick” due to an unfortunate lipstick-related car crash) is a 27-year-old socialite working for a renowned fashion magazine and living a glamorous life until her parents decide to cut her off.
I found that once each character’s plight is successfully divulged the story tends to be formulaic in that it follows a well-trodden “down on their luck” story arc: New York women of a certain age overcome all obstacles, miraculously and effortlessly achieve their own Happily Ever After.
Despite their completely different backgrounds, the three women, living in the same rent-stabilized building in Soho, form a close bond—having been brought together by a mutual friend and a yoga teacher. They begin a twice weekly yoga session hosted in Dana’s penthouse unit during which they share the lurid details of their unfortunate pasts and frustrating presents. Their support for each other is unconditional and inspiring. However, their sisterhood is tangential and unrelated to the growth and good fortune that comes to each of them―harried, and wrapped in a neat little bow―in the last ten pages of the story.
Without giving too much away, I will say that each woman comes out of their difficult situations unscathed and the potential of what may come next is intriguing. Perhaps this was Froelich’s attempt at keeping the door open for a sequel?
While I may sound a bit dubious as to the quality or my enjoyment of the book, I am not. Paula Froelich is no John Steinbeck and I would not even rank her among Marian Keyes or Sophie Kinsella—other female authors in the ever expanding genre of witty chick lit. However, the book is exactly what it portends to be: a breezy beach read that completely consumes you. If you are at all plugged in to the New York fashion and social scene, you will easily pick up on allusions to designers and fallen members of New York’s elite.
Despite its lack of intellectual vigor, it truly left me wanting more. Considering that Froelich left her cushy job at the New York Post to pursue her burgeoning career as an author, hopefully everyone else will want more, too!