You don’t have to know who Dorothy Parker was to truly appreciate this wonderful novel. The author, Ellen Meister, was not familiar to me, but I certainly knew about the famous wit of the Algonquin Hotel Round Table. The main character in the novel is Violet Epps. She is on her way to that same hotel to dump her current boyfriend, an artist whose main talent is getting someone to support him. Unfortunately, the lunch doesn’t quite go as expected.
The main trouble with Violet is that she is, well, a little non-assertive. In fact, she’s a wimp when it comes to speaking her mind. It all started when she was a little girl who truly spoke her mind, not caring what came through. She spoke too cruelly to her sister, who overreacted and wouldn’t speak to Violet for days. Iris unwittingly planted the seeds of both failure in Violet’s personal emotional life and success in Violet’s professional life. At least most of her success in her professional life came from Iris later encouraging her to become a critic; at the moment she is a movie critic, and a good one.
What occurs at the lunch changes everything. You see, Violet idolizes Dorothy Parker who could say anything and make it funny and brilliant. That wit has been encased in a book that is opened by the hotel manager for Violet to see and, voila, Dorothy is free. She begins to haunt Violet; she enters her body and begins to change her.
In one sense, Violet is already haunted by the spirit of Iris. Iris and her husband have been killed in an automobile accident leaving behind their young daughter. Violet absolutely loves the girl, and is in a battle for custody. She certainly doesn’t need a smart-mouthed ghost taking over her emotional life and doing things Violet would never, ever do. But Violet is compelled to do those things because Dorothy Parker moves into her home, drinks her booze, and gives her advice. Dorothy has some problems of her own which she will not discuss with Violet. It seems Ms. Parker does not care to discuss why she won’t move on into the light of the beyond.
Violet finally tells Cliff that it’s over and he’s not moving in. She goes to get her niece for their weekend together (all the while crossing her fingers since the custody battle with her relatives is touchy) and the girl doesn’t make it easy. She has been traumatized by the loss of her parents, cannot stand her aunt and uncle, and wants to live with Violet, who cannot discuss the custody case. Violet also cannot discuss the hottie in her life – her Kung Fu teacher is Michael. One can almost see where this is going.
But Meister surprises. There are twist and turns; the marriage of those relatives falls apart in a wicked series of events, Michael (dumped deliberately and annoyingly by Violet who is shocked when the wit takes over one steamy night, and well…) gives Violet time to re-think her decision, and….
In the end you just have to smile as the author cleverly brings the plot to a truly tidy conclusion. Farewell, Dorothy Parker is really an enjoyable fun read with depth to the characters and a lovely portrayal of the wit of Dorothy Parker herself.
Also by Ellen Meister: The Other Life
MaryLu McFall is the author of A Little Karmic Murder and The Family Lancaster. She lives in Newnan, GA and does research and customer service at an independent bookstore. In her spare time she visits her eight grandchildren and family as almost all live in the area.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Putnam Adult. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.