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Piece of Work Hardcover – September 25, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Zigman (Animal Husbandry) visits the popular chick lit landscape of Manhattan public relations, but with a less glamorous twist. The publicist is 36-year-old Julia Einstein, a Connecticut housewife who has been relishing her life as a stay-at-home mom to toddler son Leo. When her husband, Peter, loses his job, Julia is thrust back into the world she left behind. After calling on a savvy and successful friend for advice, Julia ends up at John Glom Public Relations, a "firm that handles desperate has-beens," where she must work with actress Mary Ford, billed as a "client, paying for the right to suck the life out of us." That Julia finds an antidote for Mary's dwindling fame is predictable, but the process generates its share of chuckles. Ford is ceaselessly cruel, but her vulnerability flickers tellingly beneath her veneer of icy disgust. Julia's portrait of motherhood is overly sentimental, and her references to Leo as "The Scoob" are doggedly cute. Julia's swift handling of potential PR disasters make for an amusing read, and the ending is just as happy as can be. (Sept. 25)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

When Julie Einstein's husband, Peter, loses his job, she is forced to revive her career as a celebrity publicist, a position she happily walked away from in order to become a full-time mom. She's been away from the game for three years, just long enough to have tumbled from being the go-to whiz kid at an A-list firm to being the clueless gee-whiz kid at a shop handling only B-list has-beens. Julia lands the worst of the bunch in Mary Ford, a cantankerous former screen star whose launch of a malodorous perfume is supposed to revive a career that has been on life support for decades. As difficult as Mary is to manage, Julia's biggest challenges are coping with the separation from her son and jealousy of her stay-at-home husband, whose sudden mastery of domestic duties would indicate that he is channeling the spirits of June Cleaver and Julia Child. Vulnerable yet persistent, Zigman's plucky heroine succeeds through an engaging combination of warmth, wit, and wisdom. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (September 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044657838X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446578387
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,096,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laura Zigman grew up in Newton, Massachusetts (where she felt she never quite fit in), and graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (where she didn't fit in either) and the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course (where she finally started to feel like she fit in). She spent ten years working (slaving away) in New York in book publishing where she was a (much-abused under-appreciated) publicist for Times Books, Vintage Books, Turtle Bay Books, Atlantic Monthly Press, and Alfred A. Knopf. After moving to Washington, D.C. (because she was burnt out and didn't know where else to go) and working briefly as a project manager for The Smithsonian Associates (she had a cubicle) and a consultant for Share Our Strength, an anti-poverty non-profit group (she didn't even have a cubicle), she (finally) finished her first novel (that she'd been writing in her 'spare time' for the last five years). (The thinly-disguised autobiographical novel) Animal Husbandry was published in 1998 by The Dial Press and became a national bestseller. It was published in fourteen countries (or more, she's not sure) and in 2001 the film based on the book, 'Someone Like You,' (they changed the title at the last minute because they were afraid people wouldn't 'get' the meaning of the original title -- not that she's complaining or anything) starring Ashley Judd and (excuse her while she drools) Hugh Jackman, was released by Fox 2000. Her second (thinly-disguised autobiographical) novel, Dating Big Bird, also published by The Dial Press, came out in 2000, and her third (thinly disguised autobiographical) novel, Her, published by Knopf (where she once worked ' an exquisite irony), followed in 2002. Her latest (thinly-disguised autobiographical) novel, Piece of Work, to be published by Warner Books on September 25, 2006 (finally, after four long years in between books ' maybe her parents will now leave her alone), is based on her (horrific but entertaining) experiences as a publicist and has been optioned by Tom Hanks' production company, Playtone Pictures, with My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Nia Vardalos (luff her) set to write the screenplay and star in the movie (please God let that happen).
She currently lives outside Boston (in the same town she grew up in '- how weird is that? ' and where she now feels like fits in) with her husband and young son.
(Oh, and she finally has a website: www.laurazigman.com).

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 22, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Julie Einstein has enjoyed all the joys of motherhood too briefly. After giving birth to Leo she left her high power public relations job to be a stay-at-home Mom. It's now three years later and, surprise, surprise, she's thoroughly enjoyed it. After all the stress and struggle she's happy to watch daytime TV, accommodate a few more pounds, and watch Leo grow.

Unfortunately, this state of maternal and domestic bliss comes to a quick halt when her husband, Peter, is laid off. Time to switch places: she must go back to work and Peter will be a stay-at-home Dad.

Julie reluctantly returns to the workaday world with the John Glom Agency, a PR firm whose specialty is in resurrecting careers. She may have seen her share of has-beens and a few never-weres, but no one quite like Mary Ford. Once a queen of the silver screen Mary is now a royal pain. Julie longs to look after her own three-year-old, but she's stuck with childish Mary who pilfers expensive clothing from a photo shoot and has a litany of nigh on impossible demands.

Nonetheless, Julie must persevere and this she does by trying a comeback for Mary by launching a signature perfume (think Elizabeth Taylor). One slight problem: perfume is supposed to smell good, this perfume is odoriferous to the nth.

Meanwhile, back at the house Peter is running a smooth ship. Sometimes life does throw us a few curves and Zigman charts them with gusto.

Stage actress Emily Durante narrates this story impeccably. She has a pleasant voice and clear diction which makes listening a pleasure, whether longing to be at home with Leo or kvetching about the impossible Mary.

- Gail Cooke
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Enchanted One on February 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A little too cutesy for me, at times.

-Calling the boss "Jack DeWack".

-Calling the child "The Scoob". Way too many times.

-A husband who makes the kid an asparagus costume for Halloween and gets the entire pre-school to dress their kids as vegetables, then makes himself and his wife hats made out of foil so they look like tongs and then they all happily march in the Halloween parade as a salad? (Imagine if THAT were in the book's description; how likely would you be to read it?)

Cutesy just gets under my skin.

Whatever happened with Lisa the friend and the snobby park ladies? Why do we even know about them?

Husband with previous high-level job suddenly embraces cooking and crafts and has never once flipped out or gotten himself silly drunk or, I don't know, acted realistically?

Sorry but if someone insults my kid (ala Jimmy Durante nose), I'm not letting it slide. Perfect opportunity for her to go off and she just dropped the ball. I wasn't looking for a lesson in integrity or how to be a doormat, I was looking to be entertained. Had she let loose on the old crow, quit, went home and had to stop eating Pirate Booty (also mentioned one time too many and who cares what it smells like???) because they couldn't afford anything more than Little Debbie snacks, fought wildly because of the financial stress, initially resisting the attempts to woo her back (Jack -groan- DeWack groveling would have been nice), watched her husband get a backbone as he pumped gas at the night job he had to take to help keep them out of foreclosure...well, then it would have been something I could relate to. Fluff? I don't know alot of people who lead fluffy lives that work out oh so perfectly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on September 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Thirty-six years old Julia Einstein enjoys being a Connecticut stay at home mother rather than being part of the Manhattan public relations rat race scene that she did before she gave birth. That changes when her spouse Peter loses his job; Julia is forced to find work in her expertise.

The John Glom Public Relations form hires Julia. Her client is a desperate has-been like all those who employ John Glom. However, as actress Mary Ford finds her fame rapidly abating to where she is a notch above an obscure trivia question, she correspondently abuses those hired to help her especially her public relations specialist. The PR crowd at John Glom understands that the Mary's of the world pay to bring others down with them especially those they employ. Though she loathes the customer Julia tries finding a solution to turn around Mary's rapidly vanishing name.

Though readers know early on how successful Julia will be with Mary, the key to this amusing and acerbic satire is Ford. Whereas the lead focus is Julia as she adjusts to returning to the workplace, she, her spouse, and her PR peers are sympathetic characters. Mary, on the other hand, is a nasty PIECE OF WORK who is at her best is frosty and aloof and at her worst is hostile and cruel; yet beneath her surface repugnance of everyone, vulnerability often surfaces. Thus she keeps the tale from exorbitant sweetening and ultra excessive cuteness, as there is a bit too much of both already. Julia to the rescue is a humorous entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Paperback
Reviewed by Danielle Feleciano for Reader Views (2/08)

In "Piece of Work," Laura Zigman somehow manages to write a chic-lit genre book that is completely anti-chic lit. This book is not a light and fluffy read. It does not have a load of superficial characters who are so enamored with themselves you just can't keep reading. Rather, this is a book with real people as the characters. A couple, Julia and Peter, suddenly lose all of their stability when Peter is laid off of his job. After months of unemployment on his end, Julia realizes she has to leave her current life as a stay-at-home mom and return to her past life as a celebrity publicist.

Julia and Peter both struggle with the same insecurities most of us do. He loses the sense of identity that comes with being the main financial support to his family. She goes back and forth with questioning her ability to be a good mom and wife and whether she's doing the right thing going back to work. And once she goes back to work, she questions her ability to do that job as well.

We get glimpses into their relationship with Julia's parents; a relationship which seems to have been strained in the past but has been mended with the birth of a grandchild. Those and other characters do fall flat and could have been better developed. The moms at the preschool and Julia's relationship with Patricia and Lisa all could have given more meat to the story.

Julia is desperate to work and takes the only thing she can find in her field, which is as a celebrity publicist to has-beens who don't even realize they are has-beens. Her boss is a selfish jerk who does everything he can to sabotage Julia's client, Mary Ford. Ms. Ford may deserve the sabotage for the pain and suffering she puts everyone through, but Ms.
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