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The Unexpected Salami: A Novel Paperback – April 1, 1999
From Kirkus Reviews
Writer-film producer Shapiro's engagingly breezy first novel describes, in parallel first-person narratives, the cultural collision of a sort of Out-of-Australia, feisty American woman and the Aussie rock musician who sends her away to save her life. Anyway, that's his story. She is Rachel Ganelli, who leaves the rock band (Tall Poppies) she's been rooming with Down Under, and returns to America, when an ex-band member is gunned down by the Mafia and everybody realizes that Rachel is a material witness. He is Colin, the group's bassist, whose sexual allure is somewhat dimmed for Rachel when she eventually learns that he hatched the ``demented Peggy Lee-inspired plot'' meant to revive the Tall Poppies' flagging celebrity. Meantime, the supposed dead man, Stuart, has shown up in America, and Rachel must enlist her reluctant brother and an old high school friend to help Stuart kick his heroin habit. Then Rachel's parents unexpectedly return from their vacation, Rachel gets jury duty and is sequestered to consider the fate of an unlikely suburban murderess (``We're not buying the saintly grandmother act. She'll get life''). These and other agreeably ludicrous misadventures are brought to a more or less satisfying conclusion (did I mention that Tall Poppies gets a gig in New York City ?) in a disarmingly loose novel that wanders amicably all through Rachel's and Colin's histories, fantasies, and respective fixations on each ones indigenous music, film, and TV culture. Shapiro's high-concept premise pays off in a truckload of enjoyable gags (the title denotes a favorite practical joke), hilarious characterizations (the good-natured, essentially moribund Stuart is particularly entertaining), and irresistible non sequiturs (``Hannah started converting her cats to vegetarianism''). And it should surprise nobody when the story climaxes with a coincidence straight out of the 18th-century novel. The Unexpected Salami is a hell of a mess, but has commendable energy and marches along smartly to its own arrhythmic, offbeat beat. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A charming romantic comedy. Deftly done!" -- Booklist
"After three decades teaching English in New York City high schools I thought I had inklings of the minds and attitudes of the twenty something generation. What an innocent! By reading Laurie Shapiro's first novel, The Unexpected Salami, I learned more about the world of rock and roll and drugs and sex and part time jobs and the rhythms of New York (and Australian) languages than I ever expected. The language is as crisp and dead-on as the movie Clueless, and the action as picaresque as Moll Flanders." -- Frank McCourt, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela's Ashes
"Hilarious...Recommended!" -- Library Journal
"Laurie Gwen Shapiro's romantic, hyperkinetic first novel trips along with a frank comic energy." -- Time Out New York
"Shapiro's engagingly breezy first novel describes, in parallel first-person narratives, the cultural collision of a sort of Out-of-Australia feisty American woman and the Aussie rock musician that sends her away to save her life." -- Kirkus Reviews
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Then I picked up The Anglophile, her follow-up. I didn't love it. I may not have finished it.
So what possessed me to pick up her first book, The Unexpected Salami?
Well, Matzo Ball was that good. And as a bonus, The Unexpected Salami has a rock theme: Rachel, our heroine, turns tail and runs home when the drummer of the band she's been living with gets shot.
Definite rock theme there, especially when The Tall Poppies go on to have moderate success.
All the elements are there! A book by an author whose penned another book I loved. Bands. Music. Rock and roll. What's not to like?
Well, Rachel, for one. She's whiny and so totally unlikeable, getting to the end of the book was difficult. It was a slog, a chore. It was, at times, torture. I kept wanting to smack her and tell her to grow up, get a clue, take some responsibility already. Not something you want to be reading as you're trying to relax, unwind, and get ready for a good night's sleep.
Since this is Rachel's story, liking her is absolutely necessary. And since I couldn't do that, I hated the rest of the book, too. It might have worked -- part of the plot is her indecision about the men in her life -- with someone who had at least one redeeming quality.
I'm now 2 for 3 with Ms. Shapiro's books -- and that 2 stands for dislike, not like. Loving that sophomore effort... I'm thinking that was the anomaly.
I was disappointed. It seems like the author just shoved a lot of unrelated tidbits together or something.
The timing for the release of this book might have been off since Michael Hutchence (the late lead singer of Austrailian band INXS) is featured as one of the character's bands opens up for INXS on the American leg of their tour. But I guess that made the book all the more interesting.
a good first novel.