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Rereading Jenny: Fast Women

February 13, 2014

[Spotlights contain spoilers.]

I should’ve started this ages ago.  I read it ages ago, after all.  But I was sick, and then busy, and now I don’t have that spark about writing it.  But I don’t think it needs me to be excited about it to write about it: the book definitely stands on its own as an interesting combination of mystery and female empowerment–as well as a fascinating look at the nature of marriage.

Nell has been dumped by her husband, but at least he didn’t cheat on her.  He did, however, eventually fall in love with and marry Whitney, who is quite a bit younger than her.  But he didn’t cheat on her.  Her best friend is her sister-in-law Suze, the third in a line of trophy wives.  Rounding out their trio (tria?) is Margie, whose father owns the law firm where Suze’s husband works, and whose husband ran away years before.  They have a lot of discussions about china, which is Margie’s obsession.  All the types of china mentioned in the book exist, including the ones with feet.


If I gave a crap about having a matching collection of things to eat and drink out of, these might be my jam.  But I don’t.

With Nell’s husband went her job, since she ran his business while pretending he was a Big Man.  She’s stopped eating, stopped caring, and moved into a personality-free apartment.  To Margie’s horror, she hasn’t even unpacked her china.  But at least she has something to do: she’s filling in for a sick secretary at the detective agency that does all the background checks for Margie’s dad Trevor’s law firm.

The “interview” is a comedic disaster, but the boss, Gabe McKenna, can’t turn down a request from his biggest client, and Nell starts answering phones and discovering that the secretary has been embezzling.  Meanwhile, Gabe and his partner (and cousin) Riley have been asked to look into some phone calls about blackmail.  Margie’s dad thinks it’s nothing, but her boyfriend, an accountant, thinks it’s an issue.  Gabe discovers more than he expected during the course of the investigation, yadda yadda yadda.

But the book is really about relationships and marriage.  In the beginning of the book is Gabe’s wife breaking up with him years after their divorce, telling him that it’s been an easy choice to keep sleeping together and living parallel lives while raising their daughter, but they both need more.  Riley tells Nell that, from his experience, divorce takes a certain amount of time to get over, but offers himself as a one-off fuck buddy to help her gain a little perspective.  (It works.)  This annoys Gabe, who’s attracted to Nell, but other than a couple of jokes, no one goes into nutty jealous fits over the fact that Nell and Riley sleep together once.  It’s just sex.  And friendship. But then she gets into the relationship with Gabe and she has to assess how she’s changed her life–or hasn’t.  And she has to admit that she’s been the one making the bigger mistake in how she’s been acting.

Suze is restless.  She made it past her thirtieth birthday with her husband, Jack, which was a record for him, but she’s never moved past taking 101 courses at the local college.  She’s never had a job.  She went from cheerleader to child bride.  She believes he still loves her, but he coddles and condescends to her, and she’s too old for that.  Riley was hired by the previous wife to find evidence of the affair, and it was his first job for the McKennas, and he always carried a torch for Suze from afar, which Jack figured and drives him nuts, especially when Suze starts visiting Nell at work and gets put in Riley’s way.  She secretly starts working for the agency as a decoy for looking-to-cheat husbands, which everyone jokes is entrapment because Suze is so beautiful.  But when Jack finds out, he’s livid, assumes he’s having an affair, and (ultra-spoilers ahoy) ends up having an affair of his own, the first of the marriage, despite what everyone assumes.  Then Suze has to deal with the fact that her deception led to his own.  It’s not just played off as “Jack is a cheating bastard.”  Suze has to take responsibility as well.

Margie has never filed for divorce since her husband ran off.  Her long-term boyfriend, Budge, who’s even more controlling than Jack (in a rather nervous way) just wants to get married.  She has put off having him legally declared dead because she thinks he’ll be back one day–not for her, just in general, and of course she doesn’t want to have to return any money she’ll have received from insurance.  Also, this keeps her from having to get married again.  She ends up taking over Gabe’s ex’s store, and it drives Budge batty.

You have three women in very different relationship situations that all have to do with marriage.  And then throw in Gabe, the child of a very difficult relationship that he watched fall apart and is now watching himself recreate with Nell, and their college-age kids, who fall for each other, and you’ve got a good look at a lot of the angles.  The book really ends with the idea, “If marriage is so awful, why do we keep doing it?”  Because it’s not JUST awful.  It’s also wonderful.  It’s all these things, and mostly what we make of it.

Other interesting stuff: Suze pushes Nell to make out to see what it’s like.  This leads to a hilarious “I’ve kissed everyone here!” scene, which, uh, I unfortunately recreated at one point in a room full of exes and a current, and I don’t suggest it to anyone.  The fries with vinegar thing is something I brought in my own life because NOM.  I’d forgotten that was from Jenny.

The usual: great bff, good mystery, a cute dog (a “con dog”), sex where people can be discovered, music.  No one cares who wears a suit.  There’s a support system but not really that larger sense of community, which I think feels more realistic in some ways.

The older cover:


Eh.  They both need work.

Next up: Fakin’ It, Davy from WTT’s book.


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