One Flight Up: A Novel

One Flight Up: A Novel

3.4 25
by Susan Fales-Hill, Cassandra Campbell

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After years of searching for and finally landing that one perfect man, four Manhattan friends find themselves simultaneously questioning their romantic choices. Smart, strong, but jaded divorce lawyer India Chumley leads this pack of feisty thirty-somethings, all friends since grade school at the Sibley School, an Upper East Side institution for sophisticated


After years of searching for and finally landing that one perfect man, four Manhattan friends find themselves simultaneously questioning their romantic choices. Smart, strong, but jaded divorce lawyer India Chumley leads this pack of feisty thirty-somethings, all friends since grade school at the Sibley School, an Upper East Side institution for sophisticated ladies-in-training. There's Abby Rosenfeld Adams, a Jewish gallery owner married to her WASP college sweetheart; Monique Dawkins-Dubois, gynecologist and card-carrying member of Harlem's thriving Buppie-ocracy; and Esme Sarmiento Talbot, a Colombian heiress married to the All-American boy next door. When India, the most straightlaced of them all, learns that her friends are considering straying from their partners, she is dismayed. That is, until India's ex-fiance-the love of her life, the destroyer of her heart, and the best sex ever-comes back into the picture, and she finds herself caught between the dependable man she thought was her future and the man she never quite let go of. Against the backdrop of New York at its most glamorous, One Flight Up is a delicious debut from a talented new writer.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I had a ball reading One Flight Up. I wish the characters were real so we might have lunch!... A fun, fabulous, New York story that you won't be able to put down!" —Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author

Product Details

Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 5.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

chapter one

At the wise old age of thirty-seven, India Chumley, Esquire, wholeheartedly believed that women should manage their personal lives using logic and reason as their guides. Yet as she looked across the gleaming expanse of her desk at her favorite pro bono client, a majestic, careworn blonde in the autumn of her years, she was reminded that few women could compel their hearts to follow a mission statement, let alone a five-year plan. It never ceased to mystify and sadden India that women could command armies and run Fortune 500s, yet in their personal lives, the best and brightest of them were as hapless and lacking in willpower as Eve herself, who threw Paradise away for a Red Delicious. Hoping to help her “sisters,” India had opted to become a divorce lawyer.

India’s eyes traveled from her client to the lone family photograph on her desk: a three-quarter-length portrait of an elderly African-American woman in judges’ robes, her paternal grandmother, the Honorable Lydia Chumley. Nana Chumley embodied all the qualities this client lacked: discipline, sound judgment, and moderation. It was India’s sworn ambition to follow Nana’s example and serve as a credit to people of color and to womankind itself.

India was all too aware that for a woman, the smallest misstep in her personal life could lead down the slippery slope to perdition. The wrong man could turn a potential Supreme Court justice into the permanent resident of a psych ward. Experience had taught her that women should avoid the mean, the financially sloppy, and, most of all, the devastatingly seductive who turn out to be as emotionally reliable as quicksand. India herself had almost fallen prey to the latter category of cad but saved herself just in time. Six years later, she no longer dated snakes; she accessorized with them. She had a brilliant career, her dignity, and a closet full of reptile purses—the spoils of her victory over herself. Most important, though she was still single, she had no regrets.

India’s eyes wandered over the slightly sagging folds of her client’s ivory flesh, propped up by cheekbones as pronounced and perfectly symmetrical as if a sculptor had chiseled them in marble. Elizabeth had sacrificed her beauty and a considerable portion of her sanity trying to steady a marriage harder to navigate than the North Sea during a perfect storm. India placed a café au lait hand on her client’s pale arm and gave a tender squeeze.

“You must make a decision,” she nudged gently, her large brown eyes conveying compassion.

“I’ve got it!” Elizabeth exclaimed at last in a nicotine-tempered British purr. “It’s cruel and unusual treatment!”

“It’s called ‘cruelty.’ And you used those grounds in the summons we sent him last year. And the one we sent him the year before,” India patiently reminded her.

“Then we know it’s effective. Besides, he’ll never remember,” Elizabeth argued.

“He’s a writer. They remember.”

“Well, I can’t bear ‘irreconcilable differences.’ That’s just stating the obvious. Of course, they’re irreconcilable. That’s what gives our marriage its zest,” Elizabeth declared with a dramatic toss of her arm.

“How about ‘abandonment’? We’ve never used it. It’s fresh,” India proposed.

“No, no, it sounds so pathetic. Like he’s never coming back. Like I’m some sort of foundling. I shall turn sixty in a few months, you know.”

“You turned sixty four years ago,” India pointedly reminded her.

“Must you be a slave to the facts? It’s because you’re such a stickler for the rules that your life lacks poetry,” Elizabeth snapped.

“Thank you for the pep talk,” India answered, pained. Elizabeth’s hazel eyes revealed that she had instantly regretted her outburst. India chose not to give vent to her own frustrations by reminding this particular client that poetry and passion were of little use when the bills came due.

“Very well, ‘abandonment’ it is,” Elizabeth conceded.

“I’ll have the papers drawn up today. We can deliver them tomorrow.”

“Bless you, Counselor.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you or will that be all, Mom?” India asked.

“That’s all, my angel. Say hello to that divine Julien for me. Now that is a man worth keeping.”

India studied her mother’s dramatic, aging face. They shared undeniably identical bone structure. India’s face with its Madame X defiant beak of a nose was a dark carbon copy of Elizabeth’s. But India always swore to herself that all resemblances ended at the physical. She did not think it wildly ambitious to hope that when she had a child of her own, she would not be spending quality time with her dictating an annual divorce summons. As was her custom, her mother sat perched on the brink of a mental breakdown. It had been India’s lifelong mission to keep her from falling.

“We’ll have Richard served after his poetry class on Monday. That’s at Apsley Hall, on One hundred and fourteenth Street?” India confirmed.

“No, it’s at McGregor, Mc—something, at the University of Edinburgh,” Elizabeth corrected her.

“In Scotland?” India asked, flabbergasted.

“Didn’t I mention that your stepfather’s doing a guest professorship there? I’ll phone your assistant with his address. Now it’s off to rehearsal with me. Don’t forget, we open in twelve weeks. I want to panic Richard enough to get him home in time for my first entrance.”

And with that, India’s mother draped a bloodred cashmere shawl over her right shoulder and flounced out the door.

“This too shall not pass,” India said to herself, resigned to the absurdity of the ritual. She slid open the shallow top drawer of her desk. Pushing aside an impeccable stack of pink index cards, she uncovered a fading color photograph of an ebony-skinned man smiling broadly as he tossed a mocha-hued eighteen-month-old aloft. The toddler’s beatific smile matched her father’s as she flew through the air, secure in the knowledge that he would never let her drop.

India had no memories of her father. He died in a car crash six months after the snapshot was taken. And having no actual memories, she invested in him all the perfections of an ideal. On days like today, she stopped to imagine the life she might have known had he lived. Her mother’s tales of their blissful time together confirmed the canonization. Over Elizabeth’s nightly bottle of Bordeaux, her face would glow with the memory of his kindness and his steadfastness, qualities her second husband, India’s stepfather, lacked. What would her mother have become with the tender ministrations of a man of character instead of the Punch and Judy of her life with Richard Blythe, award-winning poet, alcoholic, and inveterate cheater? She might actually have behaved like a normal parent instead of rattling about the world like a wine-soaked caricature of herself. The arrant waste of gifts, of time, of life itself all made India want to smash the empty Steuben candy dish before her. She slammed the drawer shut, putting an end to the maudlin train of thought and to the temptation to destroy good glassware. Over the years, her mother’s outbursts had cost them an entire collection of Waterford crystal, another family pattern India aimed to break.

Her phone rang and the name “Adams, Abigail” flashed across the identity bar. India eagerly picked up, relieved to hear from her best friend. You can’t pick your family, she mused, but mercifully, you do pick your friends. And she’d picked well.

“Thank God, it’s you,” she said into the receiver.

“Bad morning?” Abby asked in her trademark sunny tone.

“It’s that time of year for Mom and Richard.” India sighed.

“The divorce thing? Don’t they usually do that around Thanksgiving?” Abby asked.

“They’re off to an early start this time,” India explained.

“You’re such a good daughter.” Abby was in a position to know. They had met in kindergarten and shared the special kinship of women who had undergone all of the important rites of passage, from braces and training bras to tax planning and contemplating tummy tucks, together. India looked forward to going through menopause and the geriatric years with Abby. She was the kindest person India knew and the only person, other than her Nana Chumley, who understood everything about her life and her family.

“So I’m calling to confirm for the ballet luncheon. Eleven-thirty at the New York State Theater?” Abby inquired.

“Yes. They do the discussion and mini-performance first, and then they’ll serve us a really bad and meager meal because every woman in the room is on the overpriced wardrobe diet and needs to keep squeezing into her size-two Chanel.”

“My kind of afternoon!” Abby cheered. “Except for the bad food. Is it frowned upon to bring a snack?” she joked. India laughed, the first release she’d had all morning.

“Esme’s meeting us there,” she said, mentioning the third member of their triumvirate.

“She’ll be late,” Abby deadpanned. This had been the story of their lives.

“Let me get some work in before we play hooky,” Abby continued.

“I’m going to do the same. See you soon,” India said, hanging up.

Fully restored to sanity, she grabbed the Diamond v. Diamond file, tugged at the hem of her waist-cinching bouclé jacket, and strode down the wainscoted halls of Hallingby and Hallingby.

© 2010 Susan Fales-Hill


What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"I had a ball reading One Flight Up. I wish the characters were real so we might have lunch!... A fun, fabulous, New York story that you won't be able to put down!" —-Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author

Meet the Author

Susan Fales-Hill is an award-winning television writer and producer and the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Always Wear Joy.

Actress and director Cassandra Campbell has narrated nearly two hundred audiobooks and has received multiple Audie Awards and more than twenty AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman.

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One Flight Up 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outside of being very humorous, "One Flight Up" is beneficially honest and fearless. I recommend this book for all women. Susan Fales - Hill manages to give you the no non-sense feedback any true girlfriend would without trampling on your feelings as unjustifiable. If you've ever let your emotions make decisions for you and felt righteous about it even when you knew you were dead wrong as a woman, she gives you the commentary and feedback you need to hear without being preachy or judgmental. The fact is as a modern day woman we all struggle with being our fabulous new age selves and upholding the chosen traditional roles and behaviors of our gender. "One Flight Up" validates your confusion, reveals that you are not alone, and that there is always a solution if you search deep inside yourself. A coming of age novel fearlessly depicting what it means to be a woman, a mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend, and a professional in 2010 at any given time, every women will truly see and understand herself better post reading. I absolutely loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The entire book is about people cheating on their spouses with no problem, and the main character is constantly talking about how difficult it is for her to be half-white/half-black.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Four friends who met at the elite Manhattan Sibley School for Girls are at a crossroads of life and love in Susan Fales-Hill's novel One Flight Up. India is a hard-charging divorce attorney with a high maintenance actress mother, an addiction to chocolate, and a loving French chef boyfriend. When the man she left at the altar years ago for cheating on her comes back into her life, she is torn between her strong attraction to the "bad boy" and her understanding, caring boyfriend. Abby has a artist husband and two children whom she adores, but soon she is forced to face the fact that her husband is a cheater when she sees him kissing a gorgeous younger woman. When her son's music teacher shows romantic interest in her, she is tempted to find happiness for herself. Monique is a doctor, who has been married for many years to a man with a time-consuming financial career. Like many long-married couples with dual careers and children, the spark has gone out of their marriage, and when a sexy young EMT shows her some attention, she makes a mistake that could endanger everything for which she has worked. Esme is described as a "Columbian Scarlett O'Hara", a woman who enjoys receiving all the male attention from the moment she walks into a room. Esme frequently cheats on her nice-guy husband, just as her father cheats on her mother. The author does a wonderful job creating characters with lives that the reader would envy- wealthy, smart, beautiful- and yet she gives them problems that face most women. How do you balance work, family, and love? She understands the realities of long-term monogamy, and how hard it is to work at staying happy in a marriage. I liked that while she showed the excitement of a new sexual relationship, she also showed the consequences. If you are thinking about straying, this novel will give you something to think about. The setting of Manhattan is a great character too. I enjoyed recognizing the various landmarks Fales-Hill uses, and the reader will feel like a real Upper East Sider as she reads. I also loved the mental pictures the author creates of the gorgeous dresses the ladies wear to their many social events. Lifetime TV would be wise to option this book as a movie- and hire Sophia Vergara of TV's "Modern Family" as Esme, she'd be perfect! One Flight Up has interesting characters, sex, fabulous clothes and Manhattan- it's Sex and the City for married women.
Cariblogs More than 1 year ago
Where to begin....One Flight Up is a story of four friends who are all unhappy with something in their relationships. India, a powerful lawyer, will only date guys she is sure she would never marry because she had her heart broken by the one she really loved. Abby is married to an artist whom she has helped become well-known, but he treats her and her friends like something he stepped on. Abby refuses to see that he is an ASS! Esme, a hot blooded Latina, is so bored in her marriage that she sleeps with any man who crosses her path. Monique went to school with the girls, but wasn't part of the group until recently, because she used to bully India for being half white and half African America. She is now a successful doctor but gets no attention or affection from her husband. While India's boyfriend Julien plans for the future, India plans for the day that she gets tired of him and buys an apartment, that she keeps a secret. At this point I want to yell YOU HAVE A GOOD MAN SET HIM FREE OR BE HONEST! Instead of each woman dealing and talking about why they are so unhappy with their men they turn to other men. They carry out affairs with no remorse. If anything they feel empowered, young and beautiful when they have their affairs or sleep around. If you ask me, having an affair makes you a coward and dirty. Since three of the girls are married they start out keeping their sexual escapades to broom closets and hotels. They eventually make use of India's secret apartment. Can we say gross? Who is cleaning the sheets? While I love my friends I really don't want to think they got it on all over my furniture. There is not enough LYSOL in the world. As all affairs go spouses find out, but don't expect a typical reaction. I never really felt I could connect with any of these women. I also think that when we as women cheat, you have a guilty conscience, because being with a man is usually more emotional than physical and I didn't feel this was the case. For me this story was too far from reality and I didn't enjoy it.
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KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Four women who are friends and three of which find themselves in unhappy marriages, while the other is still in the dating scene are the characters in this story.  For one reason or another each of these women are unhappy in their current situations and instead of working on them, would rather venture to find happiness with someone else.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was witty and smart. Loved the characters and setting!
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Justsooze More than 1 year ago
"Although superficially a fun read about a group of women living in New York City who have been friends since their days together at an elite private school in Manhattan, there is more to "One Flight Up". Susan Fales-Hill tells a captivating tale of four interesting and very different women who seemingly have it all, but when bored, subsequently risk what they have for the excitement of illicit relationships. The author does a good job revealing the characters and lives of India, Abby, Esme and Monique; four very different women and the friendship that sustains them through good and bad choices in their personal relationships."
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