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Helen of Pasadena Paperback – October 15, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 100 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Dolan's debut novel, Helen Fairchild finds her life turned upside-down after her husband leaves her for another woman and promptly dies in a freak accident during Pasadena's famed Rose Parade. To make matters worse, Helen discovers that they were on the verge of bankruptcy and she's forced to sell their beautiful home and find a job in order to pay her son Aiden's private school tuition. This makes Helen re-examine the choices she's made, noting "I happily traded in my grad-student status for membership in the young mothers' club of Pasadena." Helen finds employment with Dr. Patrick O'Neill, a Pasadena archeologist studying the journals of an excavator of Troy. He also happens to be handsome, charming, and unattached. In addition to her role as research assistant, Helen must help Patrick navigate the Pasadena social scene, which includes a bevy of beauties all trying to get their hands on him. Dolan (of Public Radio's popular Satellite Sisters) has created a compelling narrative and a memorable cast ideal for the woman who enjoys a quick read, likeable characters, and frequent descriptions of what everyone is wearing.
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About the Author

Lian Dolan is the wise and very witty woman behind the Chaos Chronicles, a podcast with 50,000 downloads a month and a blog with 50,000 readers a month. With her four real sisters, she created the Satellite Sisters, a talk show, blog and website; during its years as a radio show, the Satellite Sisters won 8 Gracie Allen Awards. Lian was the principal author of Satellite Sisters UnCommon Senses, published in 2001 by Riverhead. She also writes for Oprah.com and has written for O, The Oprah Magazine, Working Mother and others, and she has appeared on such TV shows as The Today Show and Oprah.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Prospect Park Books (October 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984410228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984410224
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #558,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. T. Stern on November 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
First of all, without going into too much personal detail, let me assure you that Ms. Dolan has done her research. The anthropological fieldwork she has obviously meticulously documented lends the entire book the credibility that researchers can only dream of achieving. By observing these creatures in their native habitat, she reveals that...wait...oh, crap, you're going to think I mean the work Helen is doing with that handsome archeologist at the Huntington! No, no, NO, Helen's gift (well, really Lian's) is skewering the strange and often perplexing ways of the ultra-rich (or keeping up the pretense of it) families who inhabit Pasadena and its world of old money, new money, high culture, and low behaviors. The rich are different from you and me, believe it, and this novel enjoys the hell out of telling it like it is for the haves and have-nots, and most particularly, those who have left one category abruptly for the other. Seriously, this is a really fun, smart, satisfying read and I promise you'll enjoy it. Ms. Dolan not only tells the tale well, she sprinkles it with such deliciously spot-on details you'll have a ball turning every page. And she really gets the minutiae right (private school admissions...nailed...). Buy this book, curl up with it, eat it up, and you'll love every minute you spend with plucky, charming Helen as her world is turned upside down and she finds out what she is really made of. Smart women...Helen and Lian...gotta love `em!
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Format: Paperback
Loved it! I live in Pasadena, (thankfully on the periphery of Helen's world) but I've been here long enough to confirm that Lian Dolan has NAILED our town and its cast of characters. I literally laughed out loud multiple times. I'm also amazed at Dolan's talent for articulating Helen's inner thoughts so perfectly. No matter where you live, you'll get a kick out of recognizing those people that are "players" in all of our lives. A fun, smart and funny read! Didn't want it to end!
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Format: Paperback
I read quite a bit of chick-lit every year. I find it is a good antidote when things in real life are hectic and a good palate-cleanser after reading a long or "serious" book. The best chick-lit is light, refreshing, and distracting. Helen of Pasadena is all of these things, plus some. I was very pleased to find that it was well-written and offered some fresh points-of-view to the genre. Helen herself was likable, not whiny or wallowing, and made decisions well. I especially liked the way Pasadena and its residents were portrayed -- as a real place, neither glamorized nor vilified. It is obvious that Dolan loves her adopted hometown, even its foibles. And, perhaps best of all, the author devotes very little time to her characters' shoes, preferring instead to spend the space on plot and character development! (Note to other chick-lit authors: It's been done! Move on from the shoe fetish!)
Well done, Lian Dolan! I'm looking forward to the next one!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you're like millions of Americans who are still mourning the fact that the Satellite Sisters no longer broadcast their conversations to the world every weekday, you'll love this book. Even if you'd never heard of Lian Dolan until you picked up this book, you're going to want to hear more of her. It's fun, campy, and silly (in all the ways that good chick lit should be), but it's also got a lot going on below the surface.

Take the underlying "Troy" myth and the author's careful but clever exploration of why Helen of Troy may indeed have launched a thousand ships. Take the interesting and educational references to just how and why archeologists do what they do. Take the different slant (positive and respectful) of a woman who's working hard to juggle motherhood, work, friendship, romance . . . and an interest in classical Greek stuff.

Put all of that together with some great writing, some laugh-out-loud humor, and some characters that every mom will recognize from her own life, and you've got a winner of a book here. Here's hoping that Julia Roberts plays Helen in the movie.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I don't think I would have enjoyed this book nearly as much as I did if I didn't live in this area. It is OK and I could relate to all of it but
it doesn't feel like something special for people who don't live and identify with the places and culture.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lian Dolan is quickly becoming a favorite author. She writes stories that are more than intelligent chick lit, they deal with the pain of remaking yourself and finding a new path. Helen grew up in Oregon with hippy parents and went to school to become an archaeologist but instead quit and became a Pasadena housewife. Her son is 15 and about to face getting into another private school when her husband comes home New Years Eve to tell her he is leaving her for a local TV anchor. He dies a comic death run over by a Panda float at the Rose Bowl Parade while texting said girlfriend. After the funeral Helen find that she is sunk financially because her husband had gone through their savings and made questionable investments for them personally and through the hedge fund he managed. Their friends had known about the affair and the money, but kept their mouths shut. Her house has to be put on the market, her paintings, antiques and wedding china are gone too and Helen has to get a real job immediately after 15 years out of the job market.

She had volunteered at the Huntington and decided to start her job search there where she lucks into a job helping a visiting professor with research. Patrick has gotten this grant from the Huntington to study the notebooks Rudy Schliemann left of his time helping his uncle uncover Troy. Patrick does not expect much from the journals and grows to appreciate the way Helen smoothes out his life and work. He is booked for the Dirty Archaeologist when Helen discovers Rudy was having a read hot affair with his uncle's young wife Sophie. Helen is slowly working her way out of the chaos her husband left her in and trying to downsize and get their lives back on track. The characters are funny and the humor is full of pathos.
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