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Posted June 29, 2010
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The secrets women carry
The storied Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan is the backdrop for a unique novel about the secrets that women carry. Based Upon Availability by Alix Strauss ties eight women's stories into the hotel, with Morgan, a sales manager at the hotel, at the center of the story.
Morgan's life seems to revolve around a tragedy that occurred in her youth. Her older sister Dale died when she was just eleven years old, after a long, protracted illness. Her sister's death has held the center of Morgan's life. Morgan is angry when no one, not even her parents, remembers the anniversary of her sister's death.
Morgan has idealized a relationship with her sister, imagining all they would have shared had Dale lived: boyfriends, husbands, being an aunt to her sister's children. This imagined sisterly relationship is contrasted with an actual sisterly relationship between Robin, a real estate agent, and her sister Vicki.
Vicki is horrible to her sister, treating her worse than one would treat an enemy. She uses Robin, who only wants a close relationship with her sister. Vicki tortures Robin incessantly. The tables are turned in a horrible incident that takes place in the hotel. One has to wonder if Dale had lived, would their relationship be more like the idealized one Morgan imagines or would they have a dysfunctional sisterly relationship as Vicki and Robin do.
All of the women harbor secrets, and try hard to hide their dysfunction. Morgan surreptitiously takes room keys from the hotel, and during the day, lets herself into rooms to rifle through guests's belongings. She imagines the kind of life they lead, and when she finds a sexual item, she steals it, hoping no one reports it missing.
Franny was my favorite character. She is in her late thirties, a Southern belle who relocated to Manhattan. She works as a seat filler for award shows and Broadway openings, an exciting, though lonely, occupation. At the end of an exhilarating evening,
"getting on a bus or sitting alone in the back seat of a cab dressed in other's people's gowns she'd purchased at consignment shops and on EBay, with no one's hand to grasp, was devastatingly lonely. At home, though she could sit anywhere she wanted, she never found a comfortable spot, a place where her body could just relax."
Sometimes when novels had many characters, they can all blend together in the reader's mind, but Strauss excels at creating unique, individual women with words like that. Of Honor Kraus, a high-powered "PR icon to the stars", Strauss writes "she wears success like the wash boys in the kitchen wear their cheap cologne-strong and powerful-". From those words, you get who Honor is right away.
All of these women are sad, and their relationships with themselves and those they love is tenuous. Ellen wants so badly to be pregnant that she convinces herself she is, driving her husband away. Morgan wants a sisterly relationship with Trish, a gallery owner, who has a complicated relationship with Olive, an artist. Franny falls for a neighbor, and wants deeply to be a part of all of her neighbors's lives.
This is not a happy book. But the women in it will haunt you, as you ponder what secrets the women you know harbor within themselves. It may even cause you to think about the secrets you keep.
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Posted November 28, 2010
The Human Condition And Longing For Connection
In Based Upon Availability, Alix Strauss explores the inner life and longings of women through the lives of several New York City young professionals. Each has the sense that they just can't get what they really want and need, and most are isolated and lonely, seeking relationships with others in order to feel more connected.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The main character is Morgan, who works at the Four Seasons Hotel. She has never gotten over the death of her sister as a child, and still views events through that loss. She has broken up with her longtime boyfriend and now picks up men for quick sex when she feels especially unconnected.
The other women can also be defined by what is most missing from their lives. Trish has started a gallery but feels her best friend slipping away as she prepares for marriage. Anne also works at the hotel and is obsessive-compulsive as she fights to feel in control of her world. Sheila is a teacher who longs for a man and marriage. Robin longs for her sister to love her as she loves, but is constantly thwarted by her coldness. Ellen is desparate to have a baby. Franny has moved to the city and builds a life, but doesn't feel she is connected to anyone. Louise is an aging rock star, staying in the hotel to detox.
Alix Strauss has done a masterful job in constructing this novel. The book is laid out in a series of life stories, each chapter following one of these women at a point in time. There are recurring characters such as several men that more than one of the women interact with over time, not knowing that others also have a relationship with them. Some of the characters meet each other and develop friendships, while others have a passing acquaintanceship. The lonliness of each woman is portrayed through their struggles to find what they need, and the reader is compelled to examine their own lives to determine what needs drive them. This book is recommended for all readers interested in the human condition and the ways we seek to establish connections.
Posted July 10, 2010
Harsh topics that are presented in a brutally honest way
The fantastical and wondrous Manhattan's Four Seasons Hotel is the "set" for this imaginative and brutally honest novel that introduces readers to lives that are intertwined by fate, happenstance, pain, and hope.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
As we open to the first page, we meet Morgan. Morgan is the hotel manager - the woman who literally takes care of the famed Four Seasons. She is also the one who holds all the duplicate passkeys to all the rooms.and uses them to discover the ins and outs of her guests. Every nook, cranny, and crevice is Morgan's to explore, and she does this with wild abandonment. As she goes through things, and delves into the lives of the people staying with her, she thinks about her mother - a woman whose loves included restaurants, theatres, supper clubs, and, her husband, the surgeon. Her dislikes, unfortunately, seemed to include being a mother to her children. It is the anniversary of Morgan's sister's death, and not one person - even Mom - seems to remember it or note that it is a sad anniversary for the whole family. As we follow Morgan through her "undercover" spying, we also meet her boyfriend - who is way too much man for a woman who hasn't seemed to embrace her adulthood as of yet, seeing as that she throws herself into the arms of one of her young staff members in order to have a tryst that will prove to her that she's still alive. Also involved in her life is her Uncle Marty, who uses the hotel for all of his affairs; a rock star who needs to use the hotel as a detox center; and, a young woman named Trish, who spends half her days wishing she were an accomplished artist like her parents so she won't let them down, and the other half worrying about her best friend who has had severe weight loss and is about to marry a man who is absolutely no good for her.
We meet Robin staying in Room 1512, who is picking up her horrific sister at the airport because she's coming to NYC for a visit. This is that sister who you can't be friends with, let alone even like, and what she does with her sibling will blow your mind. Ellen is a decorator who is trying desperately to get Morgan to give her a job at the Four Seasons re-doing a room. Ellen is in her own little world, thinking about how happy she is that she's finally going to have a baby after all these years of trying. Unfortunately, her creative mind far outweighs the truth. Franny Jamison is a southern belle who loves the big city and ends up as a part of the Four Seasons story when a fire takes out her apartment building. Sheila in Room 1608 is a teacher who meets a man at Starbucks - a doctor who specializes in OCD cases. He's the love of her life, she thinks, until she realizes that she may just be another notch on his Four Seasons' bedpost.
Quill says: Although the lives of these women portray some extremely harsh topics that are presented in a brutally honest way, their stories weave together like a quilt.a quilt of life that offers happiness, love, pain, death, and romance, that will sometimes have the reader gasping at the secrets unfolding before their very eyes.
Posted June 22, 2010
Every character has a secret and nothing is what it seems.
From the very first page of this stunning novel, readers are drawn into the lives of eight seemingly ordinary women who pass through Manhattan's swanky Four Seasons Hotel. While offering sanctuary to some, solace to others, the hotel captures their darkest moments as they grapple with family, sex, power, love and death.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Trish obsesses over her best friend's wedding and dramatic weight loss. Robin wants revenge after a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her older sister. Anne is single, lonely and suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Drug -addicted rock star Louise needs to dry out. Southerner turned wannabe Manhattanite Franny is envious of her neighbor's lives. Shelia wants to punish her boyfriend for returning to his wife. Ellen so desperately wants children that she insists she is pregnant to her disbelieving husband. And Morgan, the hotel manager - haunted by the memory of her dead sister - is the thread that weaves these women's lives together. (excerpt back cover).
I found this book amusing, sad, and somewhat haunting at times as you immerse yourself in the life stories each of these women find themselves in. Their lives are all woven together by their brief encounters at the Four Seasons Hotel along with the hotel manager Morgan whom you meet in the first chapter. Morgan is obsessed with the hotel and the lives of the people she happens across while rummaging through their rooms while the guests are out. She finds their prescriptions medicines which she is more than happy to take a few while looking at the contents of their room. I found this disturbing due to the position of hotel manager that Morgan is in.
The book has some profanity scattered throughout the pages and sexual encounters with married men and hotel staff, but other than that, the book is creatively told how each of their lives are connected in some way with another's.
I received Based On Availability from Alix Strauss, compliments of TLC Book Tours and would rate this a 6 out of 10. It's available in paperback and eBook formats. For more information on this book, the author and how to purchase a copy, please click on the link below:
I am offering one lucky winner the chance to win a copy of this book simply by being a follower of mine and leaving me a comment on my blog. http://reviewsfromtheheart.blogspot.com. No P.O. Boxes please and residents of U.S. and Canada only! The giveaway will end on June 29th.
Posted June 7, 2010
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
Thank you for taking a moment to check out my new novel. I just wanted to share a few reviews and synopsis with you....Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
From the New York Post's Required reading: "From Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table to Eloise and the Plaza, colorful writing and New York hotels have made for a natural pairing. In her new novel, Based Upon Availability, Alix Strauss takes on famed New York lodging the Four Seasons, filling the stories hostelry with colorful women characters who share a common bond - Morgan, the hotel's manager. Morgan may know just a little more than most about what goes on behind closed doors."
"This sharp and brilliant novel shows that truth cannot be seen from the outside. You'll absorb every anecdote's last detail as real human connection resurfaces and these women take steps to become the people they've always dreamed they'd be." - Elle
"A mesmerizing novel. ..the characters in this moving novel are achingly sympathetic, their plights imminently relatable." - Booklist (starred review)
"These New York stories will remind some readers of Parker-as in Dorothy, not Sarah Jessica." Kirkus Review
Based Upon Availability delves into the lives of eight seemingly ordinary women, each who pass through Manhattan's swanky Four Seasons Hotel. While offering sanctuary to some, solace to others, the hotel captures their darkest and twisted moments as they grapple with family, sex, power, love, and death. Trish, a gallery owner, obsesses over her best friend's wedding and dramatic weight loss. Robin wants revenge after a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her older sister. Anne is single, lonely, and suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Drug-addicted rock star Louise needs to dry out. Southerner-turned-wannabe Manhattanite Franny is envious of her neighbors' lives. Sheila wants to punish her boyfriend for returning to his wife. Ellen so desperately wants children, she's willing to pretend to be pregnant. And Morgan, the hotel manager- haunted by the memory of her dead sister-is the thread that weaves these women's lives together. In this an utterly original read, I try to ask and answer the age-old question; 'what happens behind closed doors' while examining the walls we put up as we attempt intimacy, and inspecting the ruins when they're knocked down.
Again, many thanks for your time. www.alixstrauss.com
Posted May 20, 2010
This is a poignant drama
Although the years have passed, Manhattan's Four Seasons Hotel manager Morgan has never moved beyond the death of her beloved older sister Dale, who died of leukemia when they were children. Morgan has no one to talk to and has not had anyone since Dale died though she is always there for her mom especially on her late sister's birthday and death day. This is ironic to Morgan as she is seeing someone, but cannot truly tell anyone how much she wants to talk to Dale.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
When Morgan meets art gallery owner Trish, she believes she has met a similar hurting kindred spirit. Trish has never moved passed her fiancé dumping her just prior to their wedding and her friendship with her BFF seems over as her former buddy gets married. Trish, like Morgan, sees a kindred hurting spirit and soon they meet others like them.
This is a poignant drama as the audience sees deep inside Morgan, Trish and several other women. Alix Strauss escorts readers behind closed doors of the hotel that serve as a metaphor for taking fans beyond the closed doors into the minds of various people. Morgan is terrific as she with the hotel holds the story line together as readers meet a horde of women (besides the two above) with diverse relationship issues; as one never fully moves on passed a trauma.
Posted August 24, 2010
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Posted December 4, 2010
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Posted July 6, 2011
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