By Bridget Hoida
(Lettered Press, Paperback, 9780985129415, April 2012, 382pp.)
The Short of It:
Never thought a book about the shallowness of Los Angeles could surprise me, but it did.
The Rest of It:
Magdalena wasn’t always a Botox-injected, Juicy Couture wearing gal. No, life before her designer water empire took off involved a vineyard in Northern California, a brother whom she absolutely adored and a simpler life; complete with a “tell it like it is” mother. But when her brother Junah dies tragically, she is completely and utterly destroyed. The only way to get through it, is to transform herself into someone other than herself. Maybe then she can leave the pain behind and at least pretend for a while that she isn’t some pathetic creature, pining away for a brother who will never pal around with her again.
Los Angeles is a lot of things to a lot of people but when you think of L.A., I bet you aren’t thinking depth or an abundance of intellect. Right? I mean, I was raised walking the streets of Hollywood (that sounds bad) so even as a little kid, I saw the transparent, plasticky nature of the town itself. It was bad then, but it’s even worse now. So, when I was asked to be a part of this tour my first reaction was a tiny cringe. Imperceptible, but there. However, I visited the author’s website to read an excerpt and I was quite taken with her writing. It was different. Sharp. Blunt. Edgy. Not predictable but shiny, like something you see on the ground that you have to pick-up. So, I signed up for the tour.
I. Am. So. Glad. I. Did.
When Magdalena comes up with the idea to bottle designer water. She, along with her husband Ricky, take-off for Los Angeles to build their empire. There, Ricky’s sister helps Magdalena become the person she wants to be and introduces her to designer clothing, expensive beauty treatments and saline implants. But when Magdalena begins to doubt if her marriage is really a happy one, suspicion sets in and Magdalena slowly plummets into depression where she’s left wondering if she will ever be whole again.
This is not chick-lit. It shares elements of what we’ve come to call chick-lit, but Magdalena is a very complex woman with real problems and although she’s wrapped herself in a protective shell, the pain she feels is woven throughout the entire novel as she goes through the five stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Reorganization, Depression & Acceptance).
At first, there is a lot of humor and name-dropping. Hoida sets the scene and really gives the reader a feel for L.A. Even if you’ve never stepped foot in So Cal, you’ll have a good idea of the L.A. that Mags lives in. The Beverly Hills lifestyle is in full-swing yet what makes it so appealing, is that you know right off that Mags isn’t into it. She is playing a part and between the parties and the shopping, her vulnerabilities come out in full force as evidenced by her affinity for gin and although she has some good people supporting her, none of them truly realize the severity of her depression.
I really liked this book. I liked it for a number of reasons but probably because it surprised the hell out of me. I didn’t expect to have a girl-crush on Magdalena but I have to tell you, I sort of did. Imagine the cuteness of Bridget Jones, the craziness of Suzanne Vale from Postcards from the Edge and the vulnerability of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. THAT is Magdalena.
I also didn’t expect the story to pack such an emotional punch. Her relationship with her brother and her memories of home were really quite sweet and at times, heartbreaking. No matter how glitzy the lifestyle, loss is loss and when it comes down to it, we are all imperfect humans trying to make the best of it.
I love it when a book surprises me in a good way and this one did just that.
Enter the giveaway for a chance to win your own copy! Details below.
This giveaway is for one copy of So L.A. and is open to the US & Canada only (no PO boxes). A winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on Saturday, September 1, 2012 (pacific). I will contact the winner.
To enter the giveaway, please click here.