Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Move over, Faust: Heller (The Club) adds a witty, feminist slant to a strictly 20th-century story of the tug-of-war between good and evil. The devil in disguise makes his appearance to frumpy real estate agent Barbara Chessner in Banyan Beach, Fla., on the night on which Mitchell, her husband of 10 years, announces he is leaving to tie the knot with his partner in adultery. Having been derided for her flat chest, excess avoirdupois, disinterest in sex and failure to sell a house in over a year, Barbara ties one on, then staggers out into a tropical storm to tell whoever's listening that she's ready to make a deal. Done! She's a bodacious babe with a mouth. Soon, an attractive client, David Bettinger, comes on to her. But once she learns there's a price to pay (aside from brussels-sprouts breath), Barbara wants out of her bargain. Banyan Beach takes on a whole new light, or in this case, darkness. Waiting in the wings is pudgy Jeremy Cook, fisherman, singer, hater of pollution and secret admirer of the old Barbara. Cook cooks up a plan to best the bestial; Barbara buys into it. A bunch of wacky characters, including a persistently on-the-scene dog, share this frothy scenario, which lacks subtlety in plot and prose but succeeds on the strength of Heller's fast-paced dialogue and humor. Film rights optioned to Disney/Touchstone. (Apr.)
Florida real estate agent Barbara Chessner is prematurely gray, overweight, and drinking too much. She hasn't sold a house in ages when her husband announces that he is leaving her for a 24-year-old weathergirl. After a tipsy Barbara beseeches the heavens for help, she is thrilled to wake up the next morning, blonde and successful. Joy turns to horror, however, when Barbara discovers that the Devil is responsible for her transformation, and he expects quite a lot in return. Will Barbara be able to get her soul back from the Devil and thus thwart Satan's plans for the moral destruction of south Florida? Readers of this very funny novel will have a great time finding out the answer. Barbara is a terrific character-clever, witty, and truly likable. This enjoyable tale is highly recommended for popular fiction collections.-Elizabeth Mellett, Brookline P.L., Mass.
Barbara Chessner is overweight and prematurely gray, and her real-estate career has hit the skids. When her husband announces that he wants a divorce, Chessner hits the bottle to drown her sorrows and then stumbles outside into a thunderstorm to cry to the heavens, "I'll do anything you ask. "Anything"." Barbara awakens the next morning with a centerfold's body and blond hair, and suddenly, she's selling houses like hotcakes. So what if her breath reeks of brussels sprouts? She pops breath mints by the boxful and goes to meet a handsome tycoon. The tycoon, however, is a "darksider," a person who made a deal with the devil in order to fulfill his dreams. This is a fiendishly funny novel, with riotous surprises and nonstop action. Disney/Touchstone has optioned it for a movie, and the intense national advertising campaign and sweepstakes contest will draw attention to a deserving work.
A fourth novel (after The Club, 1995, etc.) from Heller (whose name may or may not have inspired her novel's witty hook) puts a devilishly zany spin on the hard-to-enliven subject of midlife crisis.
Things couldn't get much worse for real-estate agent Barbara Chessner of 666 (yes, that's 666) Seacrest Way, Banyan Beach, Florida. A bottle of wine has become her nightly norm; she can't sell a house to save her life; and, at 38, she's already gray- haired and dumpy. One night in the midst of a powerful thunderstorm her misery reaches its peak: Mitchell, her husband of ten years (whom she doesn't even love), dumps her for buck-toothed but blond and busty local weatherperson Chrissy Hemplewhite. On top of everything else, Barbara's suddenly all alone. So she does the only thing she can do: She strikes a midnight-hour deal with the devil. The catch is that she doesn't know what she's done: She thought she was praying to God when she called out to the stormy ocean, "I'll do anything if you'll help me." When Barbara shows up at work the next morning, her stomach is newly flat, her hair is suddenly blond and smooth, her bustline is mysteriously enhanced, and she's acquired a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that has her officemates deeply puzzled. Life picks up all around: She makes an immediate, significant sale to David Bettinger, a former short, fat, bald orthodontist and current stud who turns out to be another "darksider." He gives Barbara the score when in the heat of passion she discovers that he has a tail. Meanwhile, Jeremy Cook, her brother Ben's best friend, becomes rather more than an acquaintance, and her loyal dog Pete turns out to be much more than man-or woman's-best friend.
Campy, over the top, down-and-dirty, and a whole lot of fun.