When her mother is diagnosed with cancer, New Yorker Emily Rhode ditches her too-perfect boyfriend and far from perfect legal career to become her mother's primary caregiver. At the same time, she reconciles with her estranged father, who left when she was five. When he offers her a job as a receptionist at his law firm, complete with Friday martini lunch dates and father-daughter cab rides to work, Emily agrees, and jokey family bonding follows as mom skates through treatment and dad proves to be more of a teddy bear than an iceman. Davis, author of Girls' Poker Nightand a former writer for The Late Show with David Letterman, loads the narrative with one-liner asides and funny riffs (there's a particularly good bit about espresso machines), though she's less adept at sizing up Emily's inner turmoil, notably her fear of committing to smart, patient and loving boyfriend Sam. Though soft-focused (taking care of cancer-stricken mom mostly consists of watching TV and playing board games), Davis's book leavens regret and tragedy with a light-handed wit. (Feb.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Ask Again Laterby Jill A. Davis
Emily has a tendency to live with one foot out the door. For her, the best thing about a family crisis is the excuse to cut and run. When her mother dramatically announces they've found a lump, Emily gladly takes a rain check on life to be by her mother's side, leaving behind her career, her boyfriend, and those pesky, unanswerable questions about who she is and… See more details below
Emily has a tendency to live with one foot out the door. For her, the best thing about a family crisis is the excuse to cut and run. When her mother dramatically announces they've found a lump, Emily gladly takes a rain check on life to be by her mother's side, leaving behind her career, her boyfriend, and those pesky, unanswerable questions about who she is and what she's doing with her life.
But back in her childhood bedroom, Emily realizes that she hasn't run fast or far enough. One evening, while her mother calls everyone in her Rolodex to brief them on her medical crisis and schedule a farewell martini, Emily opens the door, quite literally, to find her past staring her in the face. How do you forge a relationship with the father who left when you were five years old? As Emily attempts to find balance on the emotional seesaw of her life, with the help of two hopeful suitors and her Park Avenue Princess sister, she takes a no-risk job as a receptionist at her father's law firm and slowly gets to know the man she once pretended was dead.
From the brainy, breezy writer who "writes like a professional comic" (The Onion) and is "hard to stop reading once you start" (USA Today) comes a laugh-out-loud tale that confirms you can recover from your parents, the bad habit of missed opportunities, and men who romance you with meat. When opportunity knocks, it's time to stop running and start living.
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Ask Again LaterA Novel
By Jill Davis
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Jill Davis
All right reserved.
I can remember the first Christmas after my father left. I was five. We didn't get a tree that year. We didn't buy gifts. Somehow it seemed pathetic to deck the halls and all—when Dad wasn't there. We missed opportunities. And I got really good at missing opportunities.
I am Emily. Emily Rhode. When I was in second grade, I experimented with changing my identity by misspelling my last name. I had hopes that a new spelling might transform me and permit me access to a new home, and a new life.
Sometimes it was Road. Or Rowed, and even Rode. Almost no one ever noticed the way my name was spelled. People just assume you're going to get your own name right. Except for Miss Bryan, my English teacher. She seemed curious. Or, at the very least, not comatose. She gave us an assignment.
"Write one paragraph about your home," said Miss Bryan. "Spelling counts."
Write about home . . . should I tell her the combination to the safe, too? I was eager to share, the perfect accomplice, and I didn't need more than one sentence. The sentence is as true today as it was twenty years ago: Home is a place you can never leave behind. I liked that it was both insistent and ambiguous. I spelled my name correctly, because spelling counts.
Whileyou can't leave it behind, you can look at the events of your past from a new point of view. Turn them around. See all the angles. Consider it your second chance. Second chances do come your way. Like trains, they arrive and depart regularly. Recognizing the ones that matter is the trick.
My office chair is parked behind a small desk, and on the desk is a giant phone. I intentionally use the word parked because the chair is enormous and—if you believe the old wives' tales—engineered by the Ford Motor Company.
In front of my desk is an impressive wall of bulletproof Plexiglas. It's the one thing I'll miss about this crappy job when I leave. I've been able to work in confidence knowing that if someone tries to shoot me—the fabulously sultry gal who answers the telephone—the bullets will bounce mockingly off of the Plexiglas and not disturb me from the important business of answering the telephone.
When the phone doesn't ring for a while, I start to think about bringing in my own gun and taking a couple of shots at the Plexiglas to test it. Sure the manufacturer says it's bulletproof. I don't own a piece though, and when I call a shooting range somewhere in Millbrook, New York, they tell me not to call again. Ever. They refused to answer my question. How much will it cost to hire a guy to take a couple of shots at a piece of Plexiglas in a Midtown high-rise? It isn't their line of work, they claim.
"Yeah, but bottom line it for me, sister. Send a body out to gimme an estimate. Bottom line it for me," I say.
"You're crazy, lady," they say, and hang up. I'm just killing time and hoping they'll play along, and I'm disappointed when they refuse. For a moment I worry that I work for one of those companies that monitors its phone calls under the guise of quality control. I am instantly comforted when I realize I work for a law firm too disorganized to tap its own phones.
To say all I do is answer phones is to seriously downplay my role around here. I also control the buzzer button that opens the main door, allowing lawyers into their offices after they get off of the elevator, or return from the bathroom.
Sometimes I fail to push the buzzer with the deftness they might like. I eat up a second of this person's life, five seconds of that person's life. The ones who grow impatient quickly and who are easily angered are the ones I steal twenty seconds from for the sheer pleasure of it. They grunt and growl in sincere pissiness, and it makes me feel terrific, alive in that way that you don't feel often enough.
I daydream—and get paid for it. I recall a scene from An Officer and a Gentleman. At the end of the movie Richard Gere, dressed in his naval whites, goes into a factory, picks up Debra Winger, and carries her out of that depressing place with all of those dirty machines.
I wish that would happen to me. Of course the whole time I'd be worried that the guy was trying to guess my weight or something. I realize how truly pathetic I am. Some guy in a uniform drags his woman out of the workplace to stick her in a house to cook and possibly even clip coupons, and I am starting to buy into it, into the antifemale propaganda disguised as romance. As soon as he picks her up, things have to head south from there, because at some point, he has to put her down.
I blame my father for my current situation. It's so much easier to blame him than rehash my past and actually work through it. Instead, I pin all of my disappointment and loss on my current post. I can't decide what's worse, clock-watching or minimum wage. Luckily, I'm steeped in both, so I don't have to choose.
The world of nepotism is ugly and dark. I know. There are people out there paying their dues who probably deserve to sit behind this Plexiglas more than I do. If not for the fact that my father is so well connected, I'd be forced to do a job I got solely on merit. I'd be working as a lawyer, on track to make partner, at a firm where a senior partner was not 50 percent responsible for creating me. I would be boosting my résumé and sleeping with young enthusiasts of all things legal. The notion of being shot would, in all likelihood, not even occur to me. It certainly wouldn't preoccupy me. I may be the only professional in history to take several giant steps backward by cashing in on my "connections."
Excerpted from Ask Again Later by Jill Davis Copyright © 2007 by Jill Davis. Excerpted by permission.
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