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Customer Review

66 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST Thing, July 3, 2012
This review is from: The Next Best Thing: A Novel (Hardcover)
Once upon a time, I worked in film and television. And I remember my boss telling me, "Nobody sets out to make a bad movie." And then she'd tell a story about an infamous flop, and how amazing the original script had been. I thought about this story as I read Jennifer Weiner's The Next Best Thing, a take on the television industry from one who knows whence she speaks. At the center of her tale is Ruthie Saunders, Weiner's skinniest protagonist to date. But Ruthie has her own body image issues, owing to a horrific childhood car crash that left her orphaned and scarred in more ways than one. Fortunately, Ruthie was raised by a loving grandmother that saw her through years of painful reconstructive surgeries, during which the two of them found comfort in television shows like The Golden Girls.

That's what Ruthie has always wanted to do, write for television, and readers get to know both her and her grandma as they follow Ruthie though her dues-paying years. All of which lead up to her big break--the chance to produce her own show. It is also called The Next Best Thing, and is a sitcom about a slightly heavy underdog and her grandmother making their way in the world. Much of the book entails Ruthie's struggles to bring her vision to life, while juggling her personal relationships.

Just now, I started to type, "First and foremost, this is a Hollywood satire." And then I deleted. Because while this absolutely IS a delicious Hollywood satire (which is sure to please fans of the Showtime series "Episodes"), I think any Weiner novel is automatically a novel about women, our relationships, our insecurities, and our dreams. I say "our," because I think there is a very universal appeal to Jennifer Weiner's flawed protagonists. Perhaps there are perfect, beautiful women out there leading charmed lives that don't relate to Ruthie's problems and insecurities, but if so, they're a rare breed. Also, I don't mean to imply Weiner's protagonists are interchangeable. They have commonalities. They tend to be funny, insecure, and Jewish--like Jennifer Weiner, and like me. Ruthie has her own voice, and as the novel went on, I was frequently frustrated with her. She could be very weak, and throughout the novel she describes herself as "broken." Regardless, she is still smart, funny, and relatable, and readers will root for Ruthie to find her way.

Additionally, like most Wiener novels, there's a delectable romantic subplot. Jennifer Weiner writes protagonists you want to be friends with, and perfectly imperfect men you could absolutely fall in love with. Along the way, she pokes plenty of fun at Hollywood, and several well-known and loosely-veiled celebrities. Personally, as a childless reader, I always enjoy the novels that DON'T deal with motherhood the most, and The Next Best Thing was a big hit with me. The Hollywood fantasy of it all harkened back to her blockbuster debut, Good in Bed. And the ending was just perfect! I think this latest novel is one of Jennifer Weiner's very best.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 10, 2012 10:46:32 AM PDT
I purchased this book based on the information in the above review. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 13, 2012 7:19:21 AM PDT
Susan Tunis says:

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Thanks for taking the time to comment. :-)

Posted on Jul 29, 2012 11:20:20 AM PDT
Exciting review that has made this book a must read for me. I love "Episodes" on Showtime so the mentioning of that series pushed me over the "maybe" to "must." Jennifer is such a witty, bright, and entertaining.

Thanks for your great review.
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