I'm Glad about You

I'm Glad about You

by Theresa Rebeck
I'm Glad about You

I'm Glad about You

by Theresa Rebeck


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Crazy, Stupid, Love meets Notting Hill. About an actress making it big and the complicated relationship she has with the guy she met as a teenager. You’ll read it in two days” —The Skimm
Their meeting in a parking lot outside a high school football game was both completely forgettable and utterly life-changing. Because no matter how you look at it, it is piss-poor luck to meet the love of your life before your life has even started. Fierce and ambitious, Alison transforms into a rising TV star in New York City while her first love, Kyle, all heart and spiritual yearning, becomes a pediatrician in suburban Cincinnati, married to the wrong woman. What could these mismatched souls have to do with each other? Everything and nothing. Even as their fates rocket them forward and apart, neither can fully let go of the past.

As their lives inevitably intersect, Alison and Kyle must face each other in the revealing light of their decisions. I’m Glad About You is a glittering study of how far the compromises two people make will take them from the lives they were meant to live.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399172885
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/23/2016
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 1,137,155
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

About The Author
In 2011 Theresa Rebeck was named one of the 150 Fearless Women in the World by Newsweek. She has had more than a dozen plays produced in New York, including Omnium Gatherum (cowriter), for which she was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and The New York Times has referred to her as “one of her generation’s major talents.” Rebeck was the creator of the NBC drama Smash and has a long history of producing and writing for major television and film successes. She is the author of Three Girls and Their Brother (2008) and Twelve Rooms with a View (2010). She has taught at Brandeis University and Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Read an Excerpt


 "BUT WHAT IS a demimonde, anyway?" said Alison. 
The  guy she was talking  to, someone  named  Seth,  smiled like  he knew the secret answer to that.  He wrote a column about celebrity bed­ side reading for Vanity Fair and  his name  had shown  up once even as a byline on  a feature  for that  esteemed  publication. Alison  did not  fully realize the import of this accomplishment but he did.
"The demimonde, actually," he told her. "There's only one of them, grammatically  speaking."
 "What?" said Alison, confused.
 "The  demimonde. It's called the demimonde. Not like a demimonde, not a demimonde  like there's a lot of demimondes and  this might be one of them. There's only one to begin with, so it's the."
"Is there only one of them if you're speaking any other way?" Alison asked.
''Apparently not; it's all the same demimonde, no matter where you find it," he noted, pleased with the inane complication  that  had grown like a
 "What's okay?"
 "That you didn't  know."
 "That I didn't  know that people call it the demimonde?" she asked. "I just mean, you don't have to be embarrassed," he said.
"I'm not," she replied, unembarrassed. The pleasure he had been tak­ ing in the grammatical discussion was fleeing quickly, and in fact it was occurring to him  that  the  young woman was not quite as attractive  as she had seemed mere moments before. She smiled at him with  that sort of absurd  warmth  that  transplanted Midwesterners  tossed about  New York like an unappreciated breeze. Because of that Vanity Fair byline, in addition  to his rangy height, he was used to having a different effect on the women  upon whom  he bestowed  his attention in social situations. Usually they sparkled more, with a charming willingness to acknowledge the sexual  undertones  of any discussion  and  the  innate  superiority  of his position in the demimonde. He had often mocked them, frankly, to his male comrades,  for that  very thing-their eagerness  to attract was, finally, a bit of a bore, he thought. But this girl, who was clearly some sort of nobody, didn't get any points for avoiding all that. She was unsettling. Attractive, but not attractive enough  to get over that  bump of her own sense of equality.
"Should  I be embarrassed?" she asked.She sipped one of those relent­ less glasses of white wine and grinned slightly while tilting her head, so that she had to glance up at him under long dark bangs. Her eyes were a startling green and  they looked like they were laughing  at him, but not unpleasantly. This was actually better  flirting  than  he'd  had in months. Why didn't he like it more?
"No, no," he said, but a whisper of polite dismissal had snuck into his tone. It smacked her enough for a crinkle  of worry to appear between her eyes, and he felt bad. He felt badJ This girl was really no fun at all.
"Oh, well. Oh. Okay," she said, recovering from the startling appearance  of male aggression over what  to her, frankly, seemed like a nearly nonsensical  discussion.  Her friend Lisa had invited  her over just a few hours ago for drinks  in her loft, which wasn't actually a loft; it was more like sixteen  square  feet and  a skylight. And  now a  total stranger  was clearly miffed with her because of some weird obsession he had with the demimonde, and  whether  or not it was "a" demimonde  or "the"  demi­ monde. This  isn't eighteenth-century France, she thought.Who gives a shit? "Well," she laughed,  opting  for good humor, "I did know generally more or less about the demimonde. I was an English major in college and we tossed the whole thing about during one endless class on Trollope and I  finally figured it out, that  there really is only one in general, that it's a general sort  of thing. But it's not a bad question,  'the' versus 'a.' I  just never quite put it all together so specifically. Until tonight] Thank you so much for clearing that  up."
 This  was, of course, both  completely  true and  utterly sardonic,  but the wry amusement  of her tone didn't win her any points. These seem­ ingly  simple  situations   were  frankly  problematic   for  Alison,  whose untamed heart and effortless intelligence combined  to create an unfortu­ nately toxic cocktail for a certain breed of male ego. An ex-friend of her ex-boyfriend Kyle once  told her that he got sick of how she had to show off how smart she was all the time. It was an irrational misreading of her character-Alison wasn't particularly interested  in showing off; she just was not a fool and felt no need to pretend  to be one, under any circum­ stances or for any reason. Unfortunately,  her ex-boyfriend's ex-friend was not  the only male creature  who  had ever mistaken  this trait  for some­ thing less defined and  more blameworthy.
"Where was that?" Seth  the OCD word fanatic asked.
 "Where was what?" Alison asked, confused again. "Where'd you do your undergrad?"
"Undergrad?" she repeated. "Oh,  I went to Notre Dame."
 As  soon  as she had  admitted this, she wished she  hadn't.  Having arrived in New York only five months before, she was already acquainted with  the  eagerness  with  which  those  interminable Ivy Leaguers pried into  the facts around  your college education just so they had an excuse to bludgeon you with their own. And she had stepped into his trap!"Let me guess. You went to Harvard," she said, beating him to the punch line. She  tilted her chin at him, aiming  for charming defiance.
"Well, yes, actually," Seth  admitted  with a nod. Unfortunately, the charming defiance  didn't  manage  to outshine  the leaden  fact of Notre Dame. He glanced over her shoulder, to see if anyone more worthy of his attention had drifted into view behind her. She hated New York at times like this, so full of intellectual phonies desperate to take any opportunity to assert their superiority in ways that,  honestly, would have been  con­ sidered  just rude  in  the  Midwest. "Guess  they weren't supposed  to let girls from Ohio  into  this particular corner  of the demimonde," she  told him tartly. ''A Harvard  boy who writes for Vanity  Fair, how on earth  did you get stuck  talking  to a loser like me?"
"Just lucky, I guess." He shrugged,  playing the double negative now.
 ''And what do you do, Alison?"
 She  looked him straight  in the  face. "I'm, actually,  I'm an  actress." She tried to keep her confidence up but she knew how idiotic this would sound  to him, or anyone, in point of fact.
"So how is that going for you?" he asked, with deliberate disinterest. Too bad, she thought.I thought he was kind of cute. He was already some­ one she had known  in the past. "I'm going to get another glass of wine," she told him.
"Terrific," he noted  flatly. It was so dismissive she blinked  a little, and  took a step back. He had turned away, and was saying hello to some other  loser friend  of Lisa's, a girl  with  an  eager smile  and  enormous breasts. Alison felt her heart constrict with a tinge of fear and disappointment.Whatever, he's a creep, she told herself. Then  she pushed  through the bitter little crowd of young professionals who had gathered  for a fun evening  in  Lisa's ugly and  overpriced  apartment, trying  to get  to that table in the corner where people had dumped the wine bottles they'd delivered as party gifts.
"You met Seth!" Lisa exclaimed, sticking her head out of the closet­ sized kitchen  and  raising her eyebrows with smug, conspiratorial glee. "He's so fabulous. Really it is ridiculous how successful he is, he has his own column for Vanity Fair and he's had pieces everywhere, I think  he's doing something for Vogue right now. Maybe GQ.  Or  that  piece maybe already came out, I can't remember. He's very prolific and he knows a ton of people plus I think  he's really hot, he's so tall. His family has buckets of money, his father is something huge at Goldman Sachs and you should see where he lives in Tribeca."
"Goldman Sachs is like the institutional version of the anti-Christ, Lisa," Alison  reported  with  an  air  of sincere  regret  that  this  fact had somehow escaped her friend's notice.
"I'd put up with people calling me the anti-Christ if I had money like that," Lisa tossed back at her.
"Yeah, well, I think  your friend mostly wanted  to get laid, so it's fine.
 I'm from the Midwest, we don't do that on a first date," Alison reported. "Plus he's an asshole."
"No,  he's great!" Lisa insisted, pretending that  Alison's position  on sex with strangers was so outdated and ludicrous she didn't even have to acknowledge it. "He's juggling a lot of different commitments, magazine people have  to have so many  things  going on  that  sometimes  it takes them a little time to unwind and  just be themselves. Plus he told me he just got here from a big meeting with the Times Sunday magazine, which he's  been  really worried about ... So  he's probably still  just thinking about  that; he's under a lot of pressure because so much is happening for him  right now. And  tomorrow  he's running out  to  the Hamptons, his parents have a place in Amagansett and  there's some big family party he has to go to."
Alison could not for the life of her understand  why going to a party in  the  Hamptons  tomorrow  might  be  considered  an  excuse  for lousy behavior today, and she sincerely wished that she might be asked to care more about the young man's character than  his resume. But Lisa's atten­ tion had moved on to other subjects. Alison watched as her friend found herself caught  in a web of arms  and  hands  reaching desperately  for the half-empty bottles of cheap wine, which cluttered  the table behind  her. Lisa was an  elegant, slender blonde who moved with an  amused  grace through  the center of it all. The  apparently ravenous young professionals who surrounded her were consuming a simple tray of grapes and cheeses in mere seconds in a piranha-like frenzy. Blonde Lisa laughed with delight and threw her hands up in a gesture of mock despair. "I never get enough food," she admitted  happily.
In the Midwest, there's always enough food, Alison thought. She thought of her mother's housewarming  parties, where neighbors who had known one another for thirty  years would gather on  the  back porch and  talk about  golf scores and  school  functions  and  the  weather.  Her  mother would serve hot hors d'oeuvres, sesame chicken with a honey-mayonnaise dressing, toasted cheese rounds, and everyone's favorite, sausage balls, a spectacular concoction made of grated  cheddar,  Jimmy  Dean  sausage, and  Bisquick all mashed together and cooked in the broiler. Then Mom would load the dining  room table with platters  heaped with sliced ham and  turkey and  roast beef, alongside a breadbasket  filled with miniature sandwich rolls, around which she had curled lovely little dishes of ketchup and mustard and even more mayonnaise. And down there at the far end of the table, a big bowl of salad for anyone who was maybe thinking of trying  to eat  healthy. After  everyone had  gorged themselves on  sandwiches and finger food and a few bites of salad, there would be plates of cookies  and  brownies  and,  if Aunt Sis was coming,  a chocolate  sheet cake, or an extra plate of those crazy peanut butter cookies with an entire Hershey's Kiss shoved into the middle of each.
Beside the memory of this plenty, the one platter of Brie, Swiss, crackers, and seedless grapes that  Lisa had bought  at a deli two blocks away looked exactly like what it was-lame. It was already finished off a mere thirty-five  minutes after the first guests had arrived; the piranhas had swept it clean and  moved on to the consumption of more wine and booze, of which there was a river.
Lisa picked up the empty platter and held it over her head. "Go back and  talk to Seth,'' she ordered Alison.
"We didn't like each other, Lisa,"Alison said clearly, hoping this would put an end to the discussion.
"You talked to him for three minutes! You have to try harder, I mean it. I've been  in  New York a lot longer than  you and  I  know what's out there. Trust me. He's the only guy in the room smarter  than  you." Hav­ ing delivered this pronouncement with definitive finality, she sailed off into her minuscule kitchen.
He's not smarter than me, Alison  said  to herself. Which, she admit­ted in her proud and lonely heart, was the problem.
 "No, HE DOESN 'T have a temperature but he's been extremely fussy for five days, it's been five days and his nose is running nonstop," the deter­ mined woman announced. She clutched a miserable two-year-old on her knee and  talked over the kid's head impatiently, like he was some kind of unmanageable ventriloquist's dummy, although  he was really quite patient,  Kyle noticed.  Not listless, just tired. Slightly heightened  color in the cheeks but no tears or frustration, no fussiness whatsoever. "I saw Dr. Grisholm  last week and he said  that  it was a virus and  there's nothing anyone can do for a virus but this has been going on much too long and he needs an antibiotic.  I don't  know why you people can't  just prescribe that stuff over the phone, it's not going to hurt  anybody and we need it and  I'll tell you  I  know  you make  us come down  here  to pick up the prescription  just so you can charge  us for the office visit and it's ridicu­ lous, the way you are gouging us when all we need is an antibiotic! He's sick! He's really sick! And  I'm tired of all this messing around  with  the insurance company.  If there  was someone  to complain   to I would,  I would really complain but, well, you've fixed that, haven't you, no one is even allowed to have an opinion without  being charged for it."
Kyle reached  out his hands  with a gentle confidence,  holding  them open toward the child with a simple gesture. "May I?" The bottle-blonde mother  was only too willing to get the kid off her lap. She  handed  him over abruptly. The  baby looked  up with  mournful  brown  eyes as Kyle swung  him  through  the air with a breezy lift-that always made  them grin or giggle, no matter  how bad they felt-and set him on the edge of the stainless steel counter,  rather  than  the examining table. They liked that  too.
"Is that safe?" the dreary mother  asked.
 "It is when you have a big boy, like Joseph, who's not reeeeally sick," Kyle observed, ruffling the kid's curls easily, like he was some kind of pet dog. He floated his fingers under  both  sides of the boy's jaw, palpating the glands so gently the kid thought  he was being petted. The  little boy looked  up at  Kyle with contented adoration while Kyle carefully wiped his nose with  a Kleenex. "Let's  just take  a peek into  your brain  here, Joseph, just for the heck of it," he said.
"I don't care what you do 'just for the heck ofit,"' the mother snapped, refusing  to fall for the  young doctor's charms. ''As long as I  get a pre­ scription."
Kyle cupped  his left hand  around  the child's chin,  to hold his head steady, while he gently inserted  the otoscope  into  the tiny ear. It took only seconds  to record  the tinge of pink around  the drum and  the sug­ gestion of a clear discharge;  it wasn't much but  it did put  forward the possibility that  the cold might be moving into the ears, and he might in fact assuage the woman with a scrip for Zithromax  without  completely compromising  his principles. Even as  the  thought  passed  through  his consciousness, he regretted  the impulse. There was no question that anti­ biotics were still  rampantly  overprescribed  in  children,  they  rarely did any good, and the consequences both immediately, in terms of diarrhea and  other  digestive disorders, and  in the  long run-ever more refined strains of bacterial infection which increasingly resisted these previously effective treatments-were not insubstantial.
"Has  he been  pulling at his ears?" Kyle asked,  hoping  the  hideous mother  might provide him with more reason to just do what she wanted, so that  he could be done with  this.
"I don't know. Maybe. Why can't you tell if he even has an ear infec­tion? Isn't that what that  thing is for?"
 The  woman was awful, no question. That didn't  mean he could do something his medical  training warned  him would be potentially dam­ aging to her child.
"There's  some indication of a slight infection  but  honestly  I'm not convinced this is bacterial," he started,  cautious. "Unless it develops fur­ ther there's really no indication  that an antibiotic is going to do anything more than  give him a stomachache, on  top of the cold. I'm inclined  to agree with Dr. Grisholm; it's probably viral. In a couple of days I think you'll start  to see some improvement."
The  horrible mother didn't go for it. He had known she wouldn't. "I came down here," she informed  him, her voice rising."I came all the way down here and all you can do is tell me he's sick? That's  ludicrous. And you know  I'm going to be charged  for this,  there will be a capay, or a deductible,  and  I didn't  want  to come anyway, I said, 'Just give me the prescription!' And your nurse-whatever her name is, on the phone, she was the one who insisted he had to be seen by a doctor and now I came all the way down here to be charged  for nothing? Are you kidding me? I mean, seriously, are you kidding me?"
"I'm giving you my best advice," Kyle began again.
 "Your best advice is not what I want," she informed him. She took a step forward, reaching out to snatch her child back from Kyle's now-suspect care. Startled by the suddenness of her move, he took a step backward and relinquished the boy without argument. "I want to see another doctor," the woman announced. "I want another  doctor!"
She had not yet made it out the door, but her voice was loud and had already breached  the privacy of the examination room. Kyle knew that she was well within  her rights  to ask for a third or even fourth opinion on this matter, and  that as soon as she had stepped out into the hallway with  her impatience  and  her complaints, the  nurses and aides on shift would scurry about and do her bidding, avoiding his gaze as they bowed to the patient's right to usurp his authority. He also knew there were two other  doctors present  in the building who would have little trouble issu­ ing a scrip for Zithromax, which is the easiest thing in the world, without even examining the child.
"Could  someone  help  me  here?" she  yelled. It was  excruciating, watching her swing that  kid to her shoulder  just roughly enough  to star­ tle tears and a wail of anxiety  out of him. She  tossed a contemptuous gaze back at Kyle, as if to accuse him of making her child cry, and turned the doorknob uselessly, while she struggled to bend over and pick up her purse, a brown-and-black designer sack which clearly cost a fortune while simultaneously  looking   like  knocked-off   sophomoric   junk.  He  had known girls in college who carried bags like that,  from which experience he  also knew  that  women  who  carried  designer  bags were not  to be messed with. In addition,  he was aware that  if he didn't issue the pre­ scription  and someone else did, the office manager, Linda, would make note of it in the daily report she emailed to the local headquarters of the HMO  which administrated their practice. And  then that  report would worm its way through seventeen levels of health care bureaucracy, before winding  up as a reprimand  in the file they kept on him and examined every six months when his performance came up for review.
The  kid was wailing. The  horrible  mother was hissing a long string of complaints under her breath as she struggled with the kid, the designer bag, and the doorknob. It wasn't worth  the headache. "I'm happy to give you a prescription, if that's what you want," Kyle said, without  inflection. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a pen. "I just wanted  to make sure you understood  the drawbacks."
"I understand the drawbacks for you, if I don't get that prescription," she snapped back. He stopped, pen in midair, and stared at her. If he was going to be bullied into writing  a scrip against  his better  judgment,  he was not going to let her be hateful about it. They stared at each other  for the briefest of instants before she smiled  tightly and  nodded.  "Sorry. I am just really on my last nerve. You know how it is when your kid is sickJ Just everything wears you out."
"Of course," he said, pulling out the prescription  pad and scribbling silently. He ripped the top page off and handed  it to her. She took it with little  grace, but  then,  he offered it with  none. With  his left hand  he reached behind  him and opened the door for her with  the careless ease of a magician. The  casual  gesture  revealed her  wild struggle with  the doorknob for what it was: cheap drama.
Completely  fried, and it was only two o'clock. His shift  went until seven. Most of the young patients  of Pediatrics West were brought  in by women like  this one,  upper-middle-class suburbanites who didn't  have the good grace to be thankful for the money and  the schools and  the parks and  the  half-acre lots every single house stood  on, much less the immediate  access to health  care anytime some kid looked sideways, or sneezed. The  whole northwestern suburban  sprawl around  Cincinnati was a veritable slap in the face to Betty Friedan and  the seminal  revela­tions of The Feminine Mystique. It was 2012, and  these women were per­fectly happy to have their husbands  run  off to high-paying jobs halfway across  town,  leaving  them  bored  and  alone  with  children  whom  they didn't like and who didn't particularly like them back. As long as the money came  in and  they didn't  have  to do anything for it aside  from wiping noses and making lunch, they were content in a kind of nasty, she-devil way. Again Kyle felt a pang of guilt as soon as the snarling  judgment flit­ ted  through  his consciousness-there were plenty of women whom  he knew personally who were vastly more caring  than  this  harridan-but he had little time with which to berate himself for the quick spite of his exhausted brain. In the waiting  room, the bedraggled crowd of infected kids was stacking up. He had to stop thinking and  move on.
"Kyle?" A voice behind  him shook  him out  of his  tailspin  and  he turned,  the gentle, practiced smile which was his physician's calling card at the ready. The woman who stood before him returned it with a good­ natured sincerity  which shamed  him in its innocence. "I thought  that was you!Do you work here?"
"Mrs. Moore, hello!" Kyle felt a fast and fierce jolt in his heart, which he quickly moved past as he shook her hand  with his best presentation of calm competence. "Yes, I'm doing my pediatrics residency here. What, what are you doing here?" He looked  around  quickly to see if she was somehow attached to any of the sick children-or the young mothers­ in the waiting room but she laughed and shook her head. "Howard  has been having some trouble with kidney stones, and he is really in a lot of pain; it's been horrible, he can't keep the painkillers  down, he just vom­ its up everything," she said, assuming like everyone that any doctor must be interested  in the most intimate facts of even a near-stranger's health. "He's been seeing Dr. Drake, in the urologist's office down  the hall, but he couldn't  even get out of bed this morning,  so I had  to bring in the urine sample."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," Kyle told her, sounding sorry.  
"My daughter  Megan-do you remember  Megan?-she's due with twins in two months  and she's been looking into different pediatricians and  I thought  I'd just stop by here. I told her that  there's a big pediatrics office right down  the  hall from your father's urologist, you should look into that  too because that's so close! I didn't  know you were here, I'll tell her I saw you."
"Please do." Kyle both  wanted  to flee and couldn't  bring himself to move. Just standing there and listening  to Mrs. Moore's chatter  brought back for him a rush of affection for this woman, who had fed him dinner, served him tea, listened to his dreams, and kicked him out of her house more than once during four long, tumultuous  years of his youth. "It must be so nice for your parents  to have you right in the neighborhood!"  Mrs. Moore continued."Your sister is still here as well, isn't she? I think  I heard from Louise Breslin that she saw your sister, she's living in Clifton!"
"Susan  is a nurse, she's over at Good Sam," he reported. 
"Your parents must be so proud," Mrs. Moore noted. Then, quickly, a shadow of some grief passed over her face; she was not the kind of woman who knew how to hide  feelings; she never had been. "You know, until Megan  moved back, not one of my children  stayed in Cincinnati.  Not one! Last year, I was so mad at all of them!" She laughed self-consciously, as if to let him  know  that  this wasn't the life-crushing  disappointment she had  just admitted  it was. "The  Oilmeyers, did you go to school with any of them? Ten children  and  all of them stayed here! Margaret  Oil­ meyer can't stop bragging about it, she has twelve grandchildren already, I hear about it all the time. I don't mean to complain; I'm not complaining! Well, I'm glad that  Megan's here, at any rate. She  just moved back! So that's nice. Your parents must be so happy, to have you both living in the same city."
"I think  they enjoy it, yes," Kyle acknowledged.  He was touched by her confession and leaned back on his left foot, acknowledging with that simple gesture that he didn't really have to run off; he had a few minutes to chat.  "But everyone's well?" He wanted  to suck  the words back into his soul as soon as he had uttered  them.
"Oh, they're all great. Just great!" she bubbled, a conscious  brittle­ ness entering her tone. "Jeff is in Germany, of all places, on a Fulbright. He's got all this research  with  DNA.  Nobody knows what  he's talking about half the time but he's successful. He's always being published in big science magazines. Nature.  He's got an article  in that one, coming  out, he's really proud."
"Well,  I  don't actually  know a lot about  research  publications  but I know that a Fulbright is a big deal," Kyle said, grateful that she had had the good grace to pretend  that  he actually cared about Jeff, her patently favorite son. Both of them  knew there was really only one of her eight children  in whom  he had  any interest  at  all. But he really had  to get out of these waters before they got any more perilous. The  nurse at the desk had raised her eyes impatiently  more than  once,  and he could  tell from her familiar  tics that she was about  to butt in and embarrass  him for taking five minutes  off to chat  with an old friend, when the waiting room was  turning  into  a veritable  petri  dish of infected  toddlers. "It's great to see you," he told her."Please tell Mr. Moore I hope he feels better. Kidney stones are no fun."
''Alison's still  in  New York!" she  announced. He wished  he could have kept his heart  from hammering in his chest,  but barring  that,  he could  at least control  any sign of interest  in this line of discussion. He had known as soon as he saw Alison's mother  that  he would not get out of this conversation without  hearing  about  her, but  that  didn't  make it any easier when  it finally happened. He forced a nod which  he hoped carried with it an air of professional disinterest.
"Yes, I had heard that," he said politely. 
"She's still crazy about  this acting  thing, but  she hasn't  had  much luck yet," Mrs. Moore continued. ''A couple of auditions. It's a big deal, apparently, even getting  into the  hallway outside  the auditions. She has lots of stories, it's a big adventure, I understand  that, but I finally said to her, don't  you have  to actually  get in something,  a  television show, or something that  pays you  something,   isn't  that  the  point?  Well,  that wasn't the right thing to say, obviously. But I'm worried. You can't blame me for worrying. She  has no money. She was working in an office for a while but she didn't like that, I guess there were a lot of people there who were really unethical  and  they expected  her to do things that  just both­ ered her too much. She wouldn't tell me anything specific. Anyway, she finally quit that  and  now she's waitressing for some company that  does private events. So she makes a lot of money when they call her but they only call her once in a while and I think she should get a real job, some­ thing with  health  insurance, but she says she went to New York to act. But she's not doing that either! At least in Seattle, she wasn't making any money but she was acting, which  I thought  you won't get anywhere  by acting  in Seattle,  but in New York she's not even doing that  much." All of this information was excruciating to Kyle. He stared at the floor and nodded  diligently, hoping that she would somehow  understand that she was making him miserable, and do the decent  thing and shut up. She did not. "She hasn't asked for money," the woman continued, again offering up the most private  details imaginable,  at  the  top of her lungs, in the middle of a waiting room full of strangers. "She's too proud for that!She was always too proud,  no one could  tell her anything. Her father says she's going to have to come to us sooner or later. I wanted her to fly home for the weekend a couple months ago, just to get out of that city, and she said she couldn't  afford the plane  fare! And  fares are low now. But she doesn't  have any extra  money at all. She  just can't  keep going on with nothing! Her father is really disappointed. She did so well in school, he really thought she might go on and do something with herself. He said to me, it just seems like a waste, a total waste of her time and her twenties. I don't know, maybe she'll get tired of it and come home."
He  knew she  was offering  this possibility  to him  as a  hope.  Kyle thought  about  what  to say, as he looked at  the  floor. There  he  found something resembling courage and  raised his eyes. "I don't," he said. "I hope she finds everything she wants  there. Okay, where's Heather?" he asked, glancing at the name on the file in his hand and tossing his ques­ tion confidently back toward the nurse at the desk.
"She's in four," the nurse replied, sour. Kyle tipped his head  toward Mrs. Moore with a quiet nod of respect and left. If you gave that woman any more leeway, he thought, she'd keep talking about nothing  for the rest of the afternoon.

Reading Group Guide

1. While Alison and Kyle both dream of leaving Cincinnati behind, only Alison ends up leaving. Why do you think this is? Do you think people can be constrained by younger perceptions of themselves and how their lives will be? How is your own life different from the way you thought it would turn out?
2. The novel moves between life in New York City and life in Cincinnati, Ohio. Why do you think the novel is set in these cities? How is life different in each? Which would you prefer?
3. Kyle dreams of being a Doctor Without Borders, but instead finds himself a pediatrician. Do you think that he compromised his goals? Do you think that childhood dreams are sometimes worth reevaluating? Why or why not?
4. After moving to New York, Alison seems embarrassed by her Cincinnati background. Why does she feel the need to escape her past? When she first visits Cincinnati for Christmas she looks at Dennis and thinks, “If he left Ohio he would have turned into nothing, but it would have made a man of him . . . He’ll turn into nothing here and it will just make him even more bitter than he is already.” What does Alison mean? Do you agree with her? Does her reading of Dennis stay true throughout the novel?
5. Catholicism is a determining factor in Kyle’s life, and a huge part of the community in which both Kyle and Alison were raised. Discuss the role of religion in the novel.
6. At first, Alison struggles to meet the physical expectations of her agent and network television, but when she stops eating she notices that even her family is impressed by her new look. Discuss how the novel handles women’s body issues in Hollywood. Do you think expectations in these industries are changing? Should Alison have fought these standards more?
7. Kyle never sleeps with Alison because “he believed what he was told: Sex is a sacrament, which belongs in marriage. He loved Alison and he refused to have sex with her” (p. 48). How did you feel when Kyle slept with Van so quickly, after waiting with Alison for so many years? Do you think Kyle made the right choice in either instance? Why or why not?
8. Van’s relationship with Kyle is continually troubled by Alison: “No matter how distant her rival was in this situation, the mere fact of Alison’s presence—her significant presence—in Kyle’s past was an unacceptable irritant” (p. 50). How do you feel about her description of their marriage? Were you surprised by the developments in Kyle and Van’s marriage?
9. Did you ever sympathize with Van? Why or why not? Would you have behaved differently if you were in her shoes?
10. Why don’t Kyle and Alison end up together? Should they have? What do you think might have happened if Alison had stayed in Cincinnati?

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