One Flight Up

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Overview

What happens after happily-ever-after fades? Can the answer be found one flight up?

India, Abby, Esme, and Monique have all been friends since their days at Manhattan’s Sibley School for Girls. From the outside, these four women—all grown up now—seem to be living ideal lives, yet each finds herself suddenly craving more.

India Chumley is a whip-smart divorce lawyer who routinely declines the marriage proposals of her charming French boyfriend, ...

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One Flight Up: A Novel

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Overview

What happens after happily-ever-after fades? Can the answer be found one flight up?

India, Abby, Esme, and Monique have all been friends since their days at Manhattan’s Sibley School for Girls. From the outside, these four women—all grown up now—seem to be living ideal lives, yet each finds herself suddenly craving more.

India Chumley is a whip-smart divorce lawyer who routinely declines the marriage proposals of her charming French boyfriend, Julien. She’s taking the first plunge by moving in with him, but she’s keeping her own apartment—and keeping it a secret from him.

Abby Rosenfeld Adams is an irrepressibly upbeat gallery owner who married her WASP college sweet heart, a passionate but tormented sculptor. When she suspects he is cheating on her, she realizes that perhaps there’s more to life than reassuring her husband of his artistic brilliance.

Esme Sarmiento Talbot is a Colombian Scarlett O’Hara, bored with her proper Connecticut life and her tame, all-American husband. In order to satisfy her sensuality, she escapes to Manhattan and distracts herself with casual encounters.

A card-carrying member of Harlem’s thriving buppie-ocracy and a successful gynecologist, Monique Dawkins-Dubois is married to a powerful but dull financier who barely notices her anymore. When an attractive coworker beckons, Monique can’t help but be flattered.

The most straitlaced of them all, India is dismayed by her friends’ illicit activities. That is, until her ex-fiancé, the love of her life and the destroyer of her heart, reappears in New York— and she finds herself caught between the dependable man she thought was her future and the man she never quite let go of.

Dazzling and sexy, One Flight Up is an irresistible comedic romp through the boardrooms, bedrooms, and ballrooms of Manhattan and Paris.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
India Chumley, Abby Adams, Esme Talbot, and Monique Dawkins-Dubois have been friends since attending Sibley, an exclusive Manhattan prep school. Now that they are all grown up, they're discovering that their lives and relationships aren't quite what they'd expected. India is in a mildly satisfying but bland relationship with a French chef, Julien, while she works as a divorce lawyer and juggles the needs of her manic mother. Abby has subsumed her own artistic desires to support her perpetually insecure husband Nathaniel, but begins to question those choices when she discovers her husband's infidelity. Whereas Esme has never stopped cheating on her adoring husband Tim, because she feels that it keeps a relationship fresh; that all changes, however, when she meets billionaire playboy Michael Alders. Monique and her husband haven't had sex in years, but have an otherwise happy union, until she starts a heated affair with a coworker that leaves her blind to eventual charges of sexual harassment. It would be easy for readers to dismiss this as another look at four privileged Manhattanites and their midlife sexcapades but this is a surprisingly good look at the struggles of women in relationships. While it is definitely heavy on the luxury and brand-name dropping, the characters are funny, the writing is deft, and the story is oddly compelling. (July)
From the Publisher
"The author, writing from a suitable Park Avenue address, confects a novel of four privileged Manhattan women—a divorce lawyer, a gynecologist, a gallery owner, and an heiress—and their menfolk. " —Harvard Magazine

“One Flight Up is a delectable journey into the minds, bedrooms and closets of women who occupy Manhattan’s buttery brown upper crust. Gasp-worthy plot twists will have Madames screaming advice to the sometimes morally challenged foursome. With a delightfully satisfying ending and a cast of endearing characters, Fales-Hill’s debut novel is a must read.” —Madame Noire

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439124901
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 7/27/2010
  • Edition description: Atria Books
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 9.58 (w) x 11.08 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Fales-Hill

Susan Fales-Hill is an award-winning television writer and producer (The Cosby Show, Suddenly Susan, and A Different World) and the author of One Flight Up and the acclaimed memoir Always Wear Joy. She is a contributing editor at Essence, and her writing has also appeared in Vogue, Town & Country, and Good Housekeeping. Susan lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

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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

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 25 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2010

    Must Read

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2011

    Absurd

    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.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Sex & the City for married women

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2010

    Chick-lit with a punch

    "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."

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 13, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Four women who

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

    Great for any woman

    This book was witty and smart. Loved the characters and setting!

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  • Posted September 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not for me

    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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    Posted May 22, 2012

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