Five Fortunes

Five Fortunes

4.0 10
by Beth Gutcheon
     
 

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Witty, wise, and hope-filled, Five Fortunes is a large-hearted tale of five vivid and unforgettable women who know where they've been but have no idea where they're going. A lively octogenarian, a private investigator, a mother and daughter with an unresolved past, and a recently widowed politician's wife share little else except a thirst for newSee more details below

Overview

Witty, wise, and hope-filled, Five Fortunes is a large-hearted tale of five vivid and unforgettable women who know where they've been but have no idea where they're going. A lively octogenarian, a private investigator, a mother and daughter with an unresolved past, and a recently widowed politician's wife share little else except a thirst for new dreams, but after a week at the luxurious health spa known as "Fat Chance" their lives will be intertwined in ways they couldn't have imagined. At a place where doctors, lawyers, spoiled housewives, movie stars, and captains of industry are stripped of the social markers that keep them from really seeing one another, unexpected friendships emerge, reminding us of the close links between the rich and the poor, fortune and misfortune, and the magic of chance.

Editorial Reviews

Anne Rivers Siddons
She has absolutely perfect pitch when it comes to capturing the lives of these remarkable women. This seems to be the quintessential American woman's tale. I loved it.
Penelope Fitzgerald
This is the novel as we used to know it, with laughter, tears, true-to-life details and a must-know what happens next story line.
Sandra Scofield
Beth Gutcheon's novel is like your dream of a best friend: funny and sunny and wise, full of intimate news, never preachy or self-centered. This writer knows women, and how much we all want a book to comfort us. If ever there was proof that a delicious novel—cheer and sad and perfectly resonant—can be intelligent and serious, too—here it is, in hearts.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Friends, lovers, adulterers, a fortune-teller and even a murderer are objects of gently sardonic fun in Gutcheon's stylish new comedy (after "Saying Grace") about five women who meet at The Cloisters, a posh $4000-a-week health spa in Arizona. Octogenarian Rae Strouse, a former fan-dancer and now a wealthy San Francisco matron, returns for her 22nd visit. A birthday gift for outsized (six feet and 180 lbs.) L.A. PI Carter Bond allows her a week in the hallowed hot tubs. Amy Burrows and her obese teenage daughter, Jill, come tangled in dirty laundry from their privileged Manhattan life, while anomalous, athletic Idahoan Laurie Lopez comes to grieve over the death of her husband, a politician and once a tennis star. "Fat Chance" is an apt nickname for this temple of rejuvenation: most of the guests haven't a prayer of living up to the example of their enthusiastic, neon-clad fitness instructors, one of whom is so thin "her body looked like a collection of bicycle parts." At the end of their frog march through the fat farm's regimen, the women meet in secret with a mysterious palm-reading masseuse, whose predictions will follow them long after they have completed their tour of duty at The Cloisters; by then, we are as caught up in this fast-paced story as these women are in each other's lives.
Kirkus Reviews
Gutcheon, veteran chronicler of the moneyed but miserable set ("Saying Grace", 1995, etc.), takes five women and turns the friendship they make at a spa into an upbeat tale of love, redemption, and purpose helped along by money and powerful contacts. The five women, all with problems or heartaches, meet at the Cloisters, a fashionable health resort in the Arizona desert where the rich and famous come to lose weight, stop smoking, or relax. The women include chipper octogenarian Rae Strouse, who has lots of bucks but whose husband Albie, at home in the family manse in San Francisco, is failing fast. Lonely college student Jill, who looks like a blimp since she started eating as a way of coping with being raped in Central Park, is there with mother Amy, a woman who, the resident palm reader suggests, has rare abilities and will soon remarry, a bit of a surprise, since she is currently married to Noah, a New York surgeon. Lanky Carter Bond, divorced and a Los Angeles private investigator, wants to stop smoking, and Laura Lopez, a judge, mother of five, and recent widow, just wants to grieve. Inevitably, the women are drawn to one another, and once they leave the spa keep in touch. In the year that follows, Jill, who experienced an affirming epiphany, loses weight, deals with another attack, and makes new friends; Rae, heartbroken after Albie dies, finds a new purpose in life when she starts building a housing project; a drug bust that went wrong brings not only baby Flora into Carter's life but also former husband Jerry; Laura, back home in Idaho, runs for the Senate, at her friends' urging; and, when Amy sees Noah with another woman, she moves out and focuses her considerable talents onrunning Laura's campaign. An unpretentious tale of friendship among the well-heeled that is both a page-turner and day-brightener. (Literary Guild alternate selection)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060929954
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/28/2005
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
583,500
Product dimensions:
5.37(w) x 8.03(h) x 1.08(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Stepping out to the curb in front of the Phoenix airport that November Sunday, Mrs. Albert Strouse, San Francisco matron of impressive age, was met by a welcome shock of heat. There had been a wintry dankness in the wind at home for weeks, which along with the artificial winter of the airplane cabin had settled into her bones. She adjusted her dashing new mango-colored sunglasses and basked.

A young woman in a jacket of a familiar blue appeared beside her. "Mrs. Strouse!"

"Cassie! How are you, dear?"

"Can't complain." Cassie took Rae's small suitcase and led her to the blue minivan waiting in the No Waiting zone. "You're my last lady. Do you mind riding up front with me?"

"Delighted. I'm good with a shotgun."

Cassie held the door while Rae hoisted herself into the front seat.

There were four other passengers already on board, none known to her. They exchanged nods of greeting with her, except for one fat one who either had jet lag or had enjoyed some cocktails on the plane and was slumped in the back with her eyes shut, looking like a failed popover.

Normally Rae Strouse loved a party. Normally Rae Strouse considered three strangers on a bus a festive gathering, but today as the van left the city behind she was just as glad to contemplate the afternoon light on the desert and let The Young behind her get on with their conversation.

The Young were apparently two childhood friends, now separated by husbands and children and distance, taking a week together. They were clucking over the guest list, looking for useful kernels of information, hoping they weren't going to regret not going to Aruba. New guests were always anxious abouthow it was going to be.

"Thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six. Thirty-six. Well that's a nice size. Group. That's a good group," said the dark one.

"Look, here's that woman Glenna Leisure. She's in W all the time."

"Is she?"

"Yes, you know who she is. She's that one who was a stewardess, she married the leveraged-buyout guy?"

"Is that the one whose co-op got so upset about her Christmas tree?"

"Exactly."

They fell silent as the van sped along toward the violet shadows of the Mazatzal Mountains.

"Is your sister coming with you this time?" Cassie asked Rae.

"No, we're taking a cruise later in the year. Mr. Strouse and I want to show her the Greek Isles."

"That sounds nice," said Cassie.

"We're looking forward to it."

There was another silence.

"A number of your pals from last time are back," said Cassie. Rae nodded. She was such an old hand by now that there were almost always guests she knew from earlier visits. She liked that, but even more she liked meeting new ones. It wasn't so easy at her age to meet new people, and it was important. The old ones kept dying.

The two friends behind her handed the guest list to the third woman, who now remarked, "Mrs. Alan Steadman . . . isn't that Megan Soule?"

Even Rae turned around at that.

"Megan Soule? You're kidding!"

"That's her married name," said the third guest. The two friends looked at her.

"Megan Soule, omigod, I love her! She was so cute in that movie, with Robin Williams . . . "

"I saw her in concert once. She was incredible."

"I've heard she's a really nice person."

"It says she's from Aspen."

"Well she isn't, but they do have a house there."

"But she lives in Malibu."

"Don't those friends of yours live in Malibu?"

"No, they moved."

The little van whizzed along over the desert.

"Well, this should be fun," said the plump blonde, sounding uncertain.

Forty minutes later the little van turned down an unmarked road winding among tall pines. It crossed an arroyo and stopped before a wooden door set in a high stucco wall. The pines cast deep shadows, and the sounds of the highway above and behind them seemed suddenly far away.

The driver rang a heavy brass bell hanging from the doorpost. It had a deep iron peal. Almost at once a young woman appeared through the carved door. Her name tag said jackie.

"Hello, Mrs. Strouse, welcome back," she said as Rae was handed down from the van. Rae passed through into a courtyard inside the walls, the first cloister. When the little door closed behind the group they seemed suddenly wrapped in stunning silence.

"Oh!" said the blonde. "So quiet . . . "

It took a moment to become aware that it was not silent at all, but filled with a subtle singing of crickets, of water playing somewhere nearby, of birds, of moving branches. This courtyard was built around a stone pool whose surface reflected trees towering around it.

Five Fortunes. Copyright © by Beth R. Gutcheon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Anne Rivers Siddons
"She has absolutely perfect pitch when it comes to capturing the lives of these remarkable women. This seems to be the quintessential American woman's tale. I loved it."
Penelope Fitzgerald
"This is the novel as we used to know it, with laughter, tears, true-to-life details and a must-know what happens next story line."

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