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The Pursuit of Alice Thrift Paperback – April 13, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Snappy wit, a clever plot and the sheer fun of a book you can't put down await readers of Lipman's (The Inn at Lake Divine) eighth novel, surely her best to date. The eponymous Alice is a sleep-deprived surgical intern at a Boston hospital. A graduate of MIT and Harvard and a congenital workaholic, she's also devoid of social skills, a sense of humor or elementary tact. Though miserably unequipped with self-esteem, Alice is an intelligent, well-brought-up offspring of upper-middle-class parents. Why, then, does she fall prey to the romantic blandishments of Ray Russo, a vulgar loudmouth and con artist who-it turns out-lies every time he opens his mouth? That Lipman can make this story plausible, and tell it with humor, psychological insight and rising suspense, is a triumph. Despite her roommate Leo's description of Ray as " a slimeball who won't take no for an answer," Alice fails to see through her conniving beau because she's achingly lonely and because he remains devoted when she's put on probation for falling asleep while assisting in the OR. It's easy for her to dismiss the concern of family and friends as simple snobbery-which, in some cases, it is. Lipman's knowledge of hospital routine, especially the bone-weary lives of interns and residents, is a major reason that the plot moves along as smoothly as if on ball bearings. The dozen or so supporting characters, from Alice's horrified parents to her good friends and fellow residents, are vividly three-dimensional. Lipman's eye for social pretense has never been so keen-or so cruel. There's a dark moral here-that class differences cannot be breached-but readers will appreciate the candor.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Fans of Lipman's seven previous novels, including The Dearly Departed (2001), will be delighted with her latest. Whimsical, heartwarming, and engaging, Lipman tells the tale of the maladroit, socially inept, and very appealing Alice Thrift. Alice, an intern in a Boston hospital, hopes to one day perform plastic surgery on the poor and disenfranchised. Her roommate is the hunky and charming Leo Frawley, a nurse in neonatal intensive care. Leo does his best to help Alice adapt to the politics and strife of the hospital and to become less of a social basket case. His quest is interrupted by his own love life and the entrance of Ray Russo, a man who decides Alice is for him. To call Ray awful and icky, and to shudder while saying so, is to compliment him. A traveling fudge salesman, he shows up all the time and somehow gets Alice to do what he wants. Toss in a very mean doctor and a very cool fellow intern, allow Lipman to do her magic, and the results are as expected--funny, pitch perfect, and utterly charming. Neal Wyatt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375724591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375724596
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,313,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By shelley de lange on July 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is my first Elinor Lippman novel. I perused it while waiting in line to buy Harry Potter and ended up buying it as well. It's fun, intelligent, and most of all, real. I'll try to explain.
This story is a cut above the usual "chick lit" novels because the author makes such interesting choices for her characters, the setting, the plot, the tone, everything!
Alice Thrift is like no other heroine and the author's technique in portraying her is one of the finest examples of the craft of showing without telling. Alice scores quite low on the emotional intelligence scale. She's lonely, isolated from herself and others, a veritable automaton. She does, however, nurse a secret crush on her roommate, a guy who everybody loves (and who loves everyone else at least for one night). This is never blatantly stated, you really have to know how to read and pick up on the clues. How refreshing!
At the same time, Alice is wry and incredibly honest, ill-equipped to deal with others who are not as forthcoming and above-board. However, never fear, she is not a wilting lily needing rescue from a white knight. OH no. After bull-headedly careening into a relationship with a cad, she figures out how to make him show his true colors by the end of the story in a very satisfactory way.
The details of her residency, a run-in with a prima-donna surgeon, smack of realism. You can practically smell the betadine. Unlike most fictional doctors, Alice realistically suffers from sleep deprivation and makes a mistake that isn't too bad but her overweaning desire for perfection makes it seem horrendous. I can't think of another novel that gets across the humiliation of making an unprofessional mistake so accurately.
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Format: Hardcover
Alice Thrift, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, is an unhappy intern in a Boston hospital. Her ineptitude with people is legendary. She says whatever pops into her head, no matter how inappropriate. This is not a good characteristic for a doctor, who is expected to be tactful with her patients. In addition, her romantic life has been on the back burner for years, while she works brutal hours in her pursuit of a career in medicine.
Alice lives platonically with her roommate, a male nurse named Leo Frawley. Leo is extremely popular with everyone and he is thoroughly at ease with himself, qualities which Alice sorely lacks. Suddenly, a new man enters Alice's life. Ray Russo, a chocolate fudge salesman, comes to Alice for a consultation, and it soon becomes apparent that Ray may have romantic designs on the harried intern. Will Ray bring Alice out of her shell at last? Will Alice learn to think before she speaks?
"The Pursuit of Alice Thrift" is a winner. The characters, dialogue, and plot are sharp and witty, and at times I laughed out loud at a particularly amusing line. What makes this book stand out is that the reader grows to care about Alice and roots for her to succeed both in medicine and in love. Lipman brings every character to hilarious life. These include Alice's frustrated parents, her cynical friend, Sylvie Schwartz, and her unctuous and opportunistic boyfriend, Ray Russo.
"The Pursuit of Alice Thrift" is one of Elinor Lipman's best. From the first page to the last, it is fast-paced, brisk, sophisticated, sexy, and thoroughly entertaining.
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By A Customer on June 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Thank God, more Elinor Lipman! Her latest gem is the story of the initiation into simple humanity of Alice Thrift, a brilliant but socially-challenged surgical resident who has all the instinctive people skills of a chilly stethoscope. The paradoxical inversion of Lipman's usual lucidly insightful heroines works to perfection here; Alice's cluelessness is itself a kind of x-ray vision and Lipman is as hilariously wise about men and women as ever. Alice's insanely persistent suitor, the sublimely slimy Ray Russo, is a perverse delight; watching the twists and turns of the courtship is like watching a car wreck in slow motion, but it dawns on us slowly that this is precisely the car wreck Alice needed. The novel's minor characters are realized wonderfully, and the delicious unfolding process of naive Alice's education in the intricacies of actual human beings is pure joy. I can't agree that this falls short of Lipman's usual wonders; it's simply a delightful read, laced with laugh-out-loud dialogue pitched to perfection and all the treasures of Lipman's effortlessly graceful style. She is our Jane Austen and hurray there's more of her now to read.
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Format: Paperback
I have tried for a while in my mind to define just what it is that is so different about Lipman's characters in this book and her others. It's hard to define, but it's something like this: She writes about the kind of people that exist so often in real life but so rarely in books---people who are not always witty, popular, gorgeous or rich, but people with interesting and meaningful lives nontheless. So many authors seem to write about the kind of people they have probably met in writer's workshops---those who are very used to analysing their feelings and writing about them! Alice Thrift is a socially inept person, very alone in the world and very lonely. We come to understand her attraction to the slimy Ray Russo very well. And to Lipman's great credit, I think we even understand Russo a little, and are able to see him as not all bad. In addition to the wonderful characters, this book is just plain funny! So many scenes are so well done---for example, dinner at Leo's house or the birth of baby Fir. I can't remember enjoying a book more lately!
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