Philadelphia cafe manager Cornelia Brown drifts effortlessly through her unattached life, unapologetic for idealizing romance and breathlessly recommending The Philadelphia Story—to the reader and everyone else. Eleven-year-old Clare is a child of divorce whose mother, a successful party planner, is quickly going to pieces. In alternating chapters of Cornelia's first person and Clare's free and direct third, poet de los Santos, making her novel debut, tells the story of their finding each other. That Cornelia, early on, immediately falls for Cary Grant doppelgänger Martin Grace is no surprise; his relation to Clare, revealed a third of the way in, isn't really either. As she discovers maternal instincts she wasn't sure she had, Cornelia works up the courage to face her own feelings for Clare with honesty. As Martin exits, Cornelia's childhood friend Teo enters, but neither makes much impact, and Clare's rather serious issues get reduced to Clare-did-this, Clare-thought-that episodes. The two main characters exist for one purpose: to enact a cross-generational, strong-but-vulnerable-and-loving, screenplay-ready femininity. Chick lit? You bet: with rights sold in at least eight countries, and, indeed, to Paramount—Sarah Jessica Parker will star and coproduce with Sideways's Michael London. The book is fine, but for this property, it's a case of waiting for Carrie to walk in. (Jan.)
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