Saturday, December 29, 2012

Goldberg Variations, by Susan Isaacs

Goldberg Variations starts with a character so overdrawn that I immediately thought this was one of Isaacs's comic novels. Seventy-nine-year-old Gloria Goldberg Goldberg Garrison is the head of a company called Glory, which tools semis equipped as mobile beauty salons/boutiques around the Western United States, stopping in small to mid-size towns to give women hungry for beauty advice/services makeovers. Gloria, like her company, is all about appearances (she changed her name to Garrison so people would not know she's Jewish).  She recently split with her best friend and heir apparent, Keith Thompson, when she refused to visit his comatose partner in the hospital. Now she has invited her three adult grandchildren whom she hardly knows--Raquel, Daisy, and Matthew--to fly from New York to Santa Fe for the weekend so she can choose one to take over the company.

The viewpoint rotates among the four major characters, and our first chapters with the grandchildren are also mildly amusing. But then Isaacs surprises us by turning the book into a long conversation among the four characters (with liberal doses of their interior thoughts as well) about who they are and who they want to be. Unfortunately, I found this became tedious rather quickly. Zzzzz.

Favorite passage:
I wish, like the ancient Egyptians, I could believe that the furniture I brought into my pyramid would be with me for eternity. Swedish farmhouse-style would wear well.

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