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Pieces of Happily Ever After

Pieces of Happily Ever After

4.0 17
by Irene Zutell

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What happens after "happily ever after"? Alice Hirsh is about to find out…

Alice, a former New Yorker who thought she'd never feel at home in the bizarre world of the San Fernando Valley, was adapting, raising her 5-year-old daughter while trying to keep her job and make her new house a home. When her attorney husband lands a trophy client –


What happens after "happily ever after"? Alice Hirsh is about to find out…

Alice, a former New Yorker who thought she'd never feel at home in the bizarre world of the San Fernando Valley, was adapting, raising her 5-year-old daughter while trying to keep her job and make her new house a home. When her attorney husband lands a trophy client – box-office queen Rose Maris – things begin to look up. Then Alex starts working late – a lot. He crunches his paunch into a six-pack and trades his Gap ensembles for Armani everything.

Soon, Rose and Alex's affair blazes in the tabloids and Alice is plunged into trash-gossip hell. Her life crumbles around her as she navigates her newly single self through suburban LA --a place rife with porn stars, psycho soccer moms and nutty neighbors.

Is there a chance to wrest Alex from the Sexiest Woman Alive? And if so... would Alice want him back? And what about George--her college sweatheart? Or Johnny, a walking charm-bomb paparazzo? As Alice inventories the rubble of her life, she desperately searches for her bearings and is forced to ask herself what she really wants from life, love and herself.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A sassy, sweet tale of love lost and found.” —Publishers Weekly

“Young Gabby's obsession with fairy tales subtly mirrors Alice's new life as she explores what happens when you have to rescue yourself and make your own happily ever after, hopefully meeting a true Prince Charming along the way.” —Booklist

“This should give anyone experiencing drama in his or her life comfort to know that happily ever after comes in the moments between the disappointments, sadness and frustration. Pieces of Happily Ever After reminds us we just need to look for them.” —The Huffington Post

“Zutell's cast of characters are layered and detailed. Even those with bit parts are well-developed. And Zutell doesn't let her characters take the easy road as heroine Alice navigates her way back to happiness and maybe a bit of happily ever after.” —TheBookChick.com

“[A] very funny debut novel [that] damns Hollywood hotcha culture, reproducing its lower-end pitches perfectly… [It] catches Tinseltown at its worst.” —Publishers Weekly on They're Not Your Friends

“Hilarious, poignant, and so true to life it's frightening. They're Not Your Friends is a very entertaining Hollywood novel and the perfect summer read.” —Robin Lynn Williams, author of The Assistants, on They're Not Your Friends

“A hilarious, from-the-heart debut.” —Melissa Senate, author of See Jane Date and Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? on They're Not Your Friends

author of See Jane Date and Whose Wedding Is It An Melissa Senate
A hilarious, from-the-heart debut.
Publishers Weekly
Journalist Zutell debuts with a sassy, sweet tale of love lost and found. When Hollywood entertainment lawyer Alex Hirsh starts hitting the gym and sporting Armani, his wife, Alice, chalks it up to a midlife crisis. But soon Alex—now the execrable Xander—is all over the tabloids, caught canoodling with his newest client, man-eating actress Rose Maris. Cue Alice's tears, rage, breakdown, followed by a bumpy and comic road to happiness, right? Yes and no: the novel walks a familiar path, but there are plenty of details to keep the story feeling fresh. Alice is entertainingly judgmental, and the new friends she makes as a divorcée are winning: there's Nancy, who wears horrible Hallmarky sweatshirts but curses a blue streak, and Ruth, a former porn star desperate to protect her son from her past. Naturally, there's a love interest for Alice, but the real love story is the one between Alice and her precocious six-year-old daughter. And it's their sweet, complicated relationship that lifts this tale above the slew of competing family dramas. (Sept.)

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.56(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.82(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Once Upon a Dream

I spy on them. They’re clustered in the driveway, sipping lattes and chais from Starbucks and Coffee Bean while smoking or talking into cells or thumbing at BlackBerrys or chatting with each other—most likely about me. I straighten up a bit to get a better look and open the blind an inch wider. A straggly looking guy on his cell phone locks eyes with me. I blink, and suddenly they’re furiously snapping away at my eyeball peering through a tiny slit in the blind. This appears to be the most exciting event they’ve ever witnessed. I slide my finger off the Venetians and dive to the floor as if I’m dodging bullets instead of cameras. My heart pounds.

"Alice! Alice," I hear them yelling. "Alice! Give us something. Come out, come out. You can’t stay in there forever."

Maybe I’ll prove them wrong.

It’s Day Three and the paparazzi are still staked outside the brand-new rambling ranch home my husband Alex and I had built.

"I’m starving to death," Gabby, my five-year-old daughter, yells from the living room.

I have never been much of a bulk shopper, even though it’s a religion out here. Be fully stocked so you’re prepared when the Big One hits, they say. Everyone swears by Costco or Sam’s. You can buy a whole cow for half the price of one supermarket steak, they giddily tell me. So because I’m not a believer, Gabby and I are stuck inside with hardly any food, except for some pasta, cereal, American cheese, strawberries growing fuzzy beards, and three liver-spotted bananas.

"How about some cereal?"

She answers without turning her head away from Rugrats.

"I hate cereal."

"You can even have some Froot Loops. I know you love them." My voice sounds like a crazy falsetto. Until just now I didn’t even know my voice could sound so fake. It frightens me. Hollywood living, I suppose.

Gabby turns toward me and rolls her eyes like some bored teenager. "That’s before you made me eat it like one hundred and twenty-six times, du-u-uh."

She’s speaking like Angelica Pickles, the snotty oldest Rugrat. During the last three days, Gabby has been sitting glassy-eyed in front of the oversized flat-screen with surround sound that Alex couldn’t live without.

Before the day that changed our lives, I had forbidden Froot Loops and had limited Gabby to two hours of television a week. By Day One-and-a-Half I had surrendered the clicker.

So while Gabby learned how to perfect her Valley Girl lilt, I curled on my bed and cried.

I click off the TV. "Draw. Play with your dolls. Do something."

"I wanna go outside and catch butterflies."

"You can’t go outside today."

"I wanna play outside. I haven’t been outside in one hundred and thirty thousand years. I wanna go outside. NOW. Why can’t I go outside?"

How do you explain any of this to a five-year-old? She’s too old to fool yet too young to know the truth. A year to go before the age of reason, the experts say. She still believes in Santa but doesn’t quite buy the chimney part. And she already has strong doubts about the Easter Bunny.

Instead of waiting for some inadequate response, Gabby plows ahead.

"Play with me, Mommy."

I open my mouth but no sound comes out.

"I know what you’re going to say. You never want to play with me. I want to play princess. Then we can talk my Barbies and make Easy Bake cookies. I’ll find my Polly Pockets beadmaker and we can make neck-a-laces and brace-a-lets. Then we can make teacups and saucers with my pottery wheel."

That’s all, I think. Time management is not my five-year-old’s forte. "Well, maybe in a little while."

Gabby puts her hands on her hips and scowls at me. "Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. You know what maybe means? No! You are no fun. Daddy’s fun. When’s Daddy coming home? I want Daddy. Get me my daddy. Now!"

I bite my tongue.

"Daddy is just taking a little vacation, but he’ll be back very soon." The crazy falsetto invades my vocal chords again. "He loves you very, very much."

Gabby slams her head on the back of the couch.

"Du-uuh, you said that like fifteen hundred and eighty times already and I’m actually sick of it. I want to go outside."

"How about a lollipop?"

The phone shrills. I hand Gabby a grape Tootsie Pop and wait for the answering machine. Lately every time the phone rings it’s a reporter calling for an exclusive. This time it’s Hilda, the Teutonic owner of the board and care where my mom lives. She speaks in her clipped officious German accent.

"Your mussa iss out of diapers. As part of ze agreement you signed, you, not ze board and care, are required to provide diapers for your mussa. Vee are not in ze diaper business. Please come over and remedy zis situation ASAP."

I haven’t visited mom since Alex left. I haven’t gone to work or taken a shower. I haven’t eaten. I haven’t fed my daughter anything today except for the purple Tootsie Pop.

I look over at Gabby. Her narrow back is facing me. She’s clicked the TV back on and is immersed in the animated world of stupids, duhs, and whatevers. Angelica’s probably about to go on The Pill. Gabby’s thick, shoulder-length, honey-colored hair is a tangle of knots and grease. Her Cinderella dress is stained with spaghetti sauce and milk. Two miles away, Mom is festering in feces.

I’ve got to get it together. One person’s needs depend on me. Another person needs Depends.

I click off the TV again. "You’re taking a shower with Mommy," I say.

"Tartar sauce! I hate showers."

Somehow we manage. I find coconut and lavender swirl soap.

"Look, this is special secret princess soap."

She perks up. "Will this turn me into a princess?"

"It might. It’s the soap all the princesses use."

"Even Ariel?"


She thinks about this. "Actually, how does Ariel take a shower if she lives under water? You’re making this up."

We stay in the shower for nearly a half hour. I keep my head under the hot water and feel the stress oozing out of me while Gabby soaps up every inch of her body until she is covered in a layer of foam and resembles a snow tot. We get out and dress. Miraculously, Gabby doesn’t protest when I tell her the Cinderella gown is too filthy to wear. I manage to shove my contacts into bloodshot eyes. I comb out Gabby’s hair.

"What are we gonna do?"

"We’re visiting Grandma." Again, I sound as chipper as possible.

"Oh no. I hate that place. It always smells like poo-poo and pee-pee. I want to do something fun. Let’s go to Disneyland. Please! Please!"

"Sure, honey."


"Just not today, okay? Soon."

Gabby balls her hands into fists and punches the air. "Soon means never, never, never. We never do anything fun. I want a new mommy."

I look out the front door window. There are about ten of them, talking, laughing, flirting. Their cameras dangle from their necks like an afterthought. This has become a party. They figure I’m holed up here for good, so why not make the best of it? There are six empty Domino’s pizza boxes on the sidewalk. Next they’ll bring a keg, a boom box, and a limbo stick. My misery is a cause for celebration. A day out of the office, soaking up some rays, enjoying another perfect early September Los Angeles day. Temperatures in the low eighties with absolutely no chance of precipitation. Ever.

I’m sure the neighbors are enraged. I’ve only lived in this house Alex and I built from scratch for a few months now. I don’t know the neighbors yet. The association is probably convening right now to discuss this latest problem. That woman with the paparazzi staked out in front of her house. No welcome wagon for me.

Welcome wagons? Whatever happened to them? When I was a kid, my parents moved us out of our Bronx apartment to a colonial house in Larchmont, New York. All the neighbors stopped by to meet us with pies, casseroles, and wine. It was mandatory that your neighbors become your best friends, for better or worse. When Alex and I moved here, the neighbor next door grunted a hello. No cookies. No cake. No wine. Everyone says Los Angelinos are so much friendlier than New Yorkers. It’s not true. They’re only friendly if they think you can help them move up the Hollywood food chain.

I must get out. I look in the mirror in the hall by the front door. Sunlight pours in, denying me any illusion. They say some women one day look in the mirror and think, What’s my mother doing here? But how could she be here when she’s wallowing in her own excrement at Hilda’s House of Horrors? When did I start to age? Just the other day I was twenty-eight and now I’m thirty-eight. My skin has lost its softness. My hair looks flat and dull. I haven’t slept for days and it shows. There are dark circles and puffiness under my eyes. A few years ago I could pull all-nighters and sparkle the next day. Now I just look like, well, my mother.

I can’t go out like this—not with them waiting for me. I think of a strategy. I remember that I parked the car in the driveway. When Alex was here, the cars were always parked in the garage. He was meticulous about it. "I don’t want olives from the tree dinging the hoods," he said. But I’m lazy. I left the glinting white Volkswagen Passat outside for three days and now I must be punished. Instead of sneaking into the garage from the house, Gabby and I will have to walk out the front door and make a run to the car. I’ll have to wear big sunglasses and a baseball cap.

I can’t do it.

I scan my head for someone to call to pick up a box of Depends Super Absorbent Protective Underwear. But I know no one in the Valley. The meager friends I have made since we moved to L.A. three years ago all live on the other side of The Hill in places like Santa Monica, Brentwood, and Laurel Canyon. We lived in Laurel Canyon, too, before trekking to the Valley for the schools, space, and domestic bliss.

I take a deep breath and search my bedroom closet for a baseball cap when I hear commotion outside. A murmur of excited voices. Maybe Alex is back? Begging for forgiveness? I rush to the window as my heart skitters.

The paparazzi have multiplied and are scuttling along the lawn, cameras in front of their faces, hands pressing buttons and massaging lenses into focus, mouths pinched in concentration. I scan the lawn for their subject. Whoever it is must be obscured by the portico. Is it Alex? Maybe he parked up the street and tried to sneak back? Maybe he took a cab? Most likely it’s Claire, a coworker of mine. Claire’s been threatening to check up on me. She’s one of those people who’ll stop by with a casserole and act all concerned. But the truth is, she’s real big on schadenfreude. She’ll run back to the office to tell everyone how horrible I look, how devastated I am, what a mess the house is.

"Gabby. Come here. Gabby? Gabby!"

I check the living room. SpongeBob—Gabby’s favorite cartoon—is on, but she’s not there.


I hear muffled applause and whistles. That’s when it hits me. I run to the front door. It’s slightly ajar. I open it wider. There’s Gabby on the front steps wearing a tiara, a pink boa, and her filthy Cinderella dress. She’s singing "Once Upon a Dream," a song from Sleeping Beauty, or is it Cinderella? Photographers click away and videotape.

Without thinking, I pull open the door.

"It’s Alice! Alice! Over here!"


"Alice! Alice!"

Gabby’s voice gets louder as she trills. " ‘I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream. Oh-oh, I know you!’ "

"Gabby! In! The! House!"

She waves her magic wand through the air.

"Gabby. Right now!"

She turns toward me, her mouth open wide. Then she turns back, jumps down the steps, and races across the lawn, closer to the paparazzi. Her voice gets louder and louder. She twirls and leaps like a drunken ballerina.

" ‘You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dree-eaaam!’ "

She dramatically swirls her wand through the air and bows. She waits for the photographers to applaud, but they don’t. They’re too busy snapping away at me as I grab Gabby. She kicks and flails.

"Stop it right now," I say.

"No! You ruin everything. I’m performing."

I can feel them right behind me, clicking away. My face is on fire. My chest burns. Could I be having a heart attack?

"Get in the car right now."


"Okay, Gabrielle." I speak through clenched teeth. "No ice cream for the rest of your life. Ever! And no more cartoons. Ever! I mean it."

She rolls her eyes at me. "I don’t care."

Gabby wriggles away from me. She darts across the lawn. I chase after her.

Clickclickclickclickclickclickclickclick . . .

I am giving them so much. An insane mother. No sunglasses. No baseball cap. Eyes swollen from crying. Gray streaks. A little leftover paunch from the pregnancy gone bad. An unruly, undisciplined brat. What will happen next?

No wonder he dumped her. What a shrew! What a brat!

Clickclickclick . . . The shutters capture every millisecond. I keep my head down as I leap at Gabby. I grab hold of her Cinderella gown. Gabby keeps running, and the gown rips. Gabby is propelled right into the leg of a photographer who has been snapping away. She crashes into his knee and falls to the ground, her gown now a miniskirt as I hold part of it in my hand.

The paparazzo lets the camera dangle at his chest. He bends down and sticks out his hand to Gabby. "Are you okay?"

She stares blankly ahead. "You okay," the photographer says again, waving a hand in front of Gabby’s face.

"Who are you supposed to be," she asks him.

She grabs his hand and he hoists her up. The pack of wild cameramen closes in on us, pushing each other to take this photo of me holding half a Cinderella gown. I can see the headline: THE BALL’S OVER.

"Let go of her," I growl. My voice again sounds foreign to me. It’s so ferocious, so nearly primitive, that Gabby understands she’s in the presence of the enemy, a vicious predator. I am her protector. She drops her hand and hides behind my leg, squeezing it tightly. Dragging her along, I limp towards the car.

Clickclickclick . . .

"Here’s your crown, Gabby," the photographer says.

I pull it out of his hand. "Leave her alone."

"Alice, I’m sorry. It’s just—"

I turn around, whipping Gabby along with me.

"You’re sorry? You’re sorry? How dare you tell me you’re sorry! If you’re so sorry, don’t publish those photos. If you’re so sorry, destroy the pictures you just took."

I turn towards the car.

"Really. I’m not such a bad guy. I’m just trying to make a living."

I stop in my tracks and turn toward him. I am no longer in my body.

"I love that one," I say, my voice hoarse as I let out a raspy laugh. "Love it. There’s millions and millions of ways to make a living. You chose this. No one forced you. And you know what? I know exactly what you’re going to do. There will be a picture of me, looking disheveled and frenzied and just horrible. Right? You’ll run some caption. ‘The Woman Scorned.’ And next to it will be a picture of her, wearing a Versace gown at the Oscars. She’ll look exceptionally elegant. I’ll look especially frazzled and frumpy. And Gabby will look like a brat having a temper tantrum. Then the entire world will think, well, who can blame him? I’d leave her and that kid, too. And that’s the end of it. The story’s over for everyone but me."

Excerpted from Pieces of Happily Ever After by Irene Zutell.

Copyright © 2009 by Irene Zutell.

Published in September 2009 by St. Martin’s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


Meet the Author

Irene Zutell began her career as a journalist. She has written for People, Us Weekly, The New York Times, the NY Daily News, Newsday, USA Today and others. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

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Pieces of Happily Ever After 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Review by Jen: For anyone who knows me and my book tastes, I generally stay away from chick-lit. I really like for my books to have a happily ever after, and in my experience with chick-lit, they don't always end happy. So, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into when I agreed to be a blogger for SheKnows. Pieces of Happily Ever After is the kick off selection for the book club. As my deadline for review loomed, I rather dreaded picking up the book to settle in and read. I finally told myself that I had to stop procrastinating and to get to reading. I was hooked on page one. I liked the imagery Irene painted of a woman being stalked by paparazzi. Perhaps this project I've signed on for won't be as bad as I thought. I loved the character of Alice Hirsh. She's a woman struggling with a failed marriage, adjusting to single motherhood, as well as taking care of her elderly mother. Add in a cast of diverse characters to add to the challenge of her changing life, and a book is born. I'll admit there were a few times where situations seemed over the top or characters got annoying and I wanted to throw the book against the wall. But for the most part, I was hooked and kept hoping for a happily ever after ending. I mean, how could you not with a title like Pieces of Happily Ever After? So, I was pleasantly surprised how much I actually enjoyed this chick-lit book. I'm not sure I'm a convert yet, but seeing as I have several more books to read and review in this project of mine called the SheKnows Book Club... who knows what will happen over the course of this year. Irene is at the SheKnows message boards discussing Pieces of Happily Ever After. If you'd like to know more about the book, talk with the author or just talk with others who have read the book, I encourage you to stop by and check them out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't care too much for this book. It was boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
Alice Hirsh is about to find out what happens after "happily ever after". She was going along happily in her life, raising her daughter, making her house a home, working full time and thought she had a good marriage. Her attorney husband lands a huge client, Hollywood queen, Rose Maris, and she is so proud of him. But then he starts working late, going to the gym, and wearing Armani instead of his clothes from The Gap. Soon her husband's affair becomes public knowledge through a bunch of tabloid rags and Alice is plunged into Hollywood HELL! Paparazzi is camped outside her door as they what her thoughts on her husband's affair. He denies it of course, but moves out to "find himself". She goes through all the stages, anger, blaming herself, depression. Can she forgive him? Can she win him back? Does she even want him back? Add to this her mother gets kicked out her assisted living center, her daughter has a few problems at school, some crazy neighbors, even some x-rated ones, and she becomes reacquainted with an old high school beau. As she tries to come to grips with what is happening to her life she makes a few new friends. With them she tries to put her life in order but still wonders if she will be "happily ever after" again. I LOVED IT!!!!! I had to read this book because so many other bloggers were talking about it and I am glad I listened. I devoured this book in one evening. It is a remarkable story of friendship and how you can find friends in the most unusual ways. It also verifies that you should not pre-judge people by the way they look or their occupation or rumor. It also shows us the true meaning of friendship, your real friends are with you in good times and bad, when you look good or you look like you have crawled out from under a rock. I definitely must read more by this author. She tackles serious issues with humor and a unique endearing quality. I wouldn't call it chick-lit exactly, more like mom-lit, I think mom's of all ages will enjoy this book. It's been out for awhile, but if you haven't read this one yet, I highly recommend it. Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a book from my own private collection. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great story! couldn't put it down once i started it, i highly recommend
Euphoria13 More than 1 year ago
Pieces of Happily Ever After is the story of Alice Hirsh and the events that occur in her life before and after her husband's affair with Rose Maris, one of Hollywood's Hottest's actresses and box office Queen. When Alice thought that her life was going well and feeling right at home in the San Fernando Valley, everything goes upside down! The story starts with Alice hiding in her home with her 5 year old daughter while the Paparazzi scan her house, waiting for her like vultures for the perfect shot/exclusive! Alice goes through alot in the story and through Irene Zutell's writing you can feel how she tries to lie to herself that things aren't so bad. She tried to hold one but how long can one hold in the pain and embarrasment that she has to dwell in? But through these hardships she finds friendship and support from the least expected of places. The Mom's of kids that go to the same school as her daughter. You'll get some good laughs from this story, when you read and learn about how the nieghborhood where Alice lives functions. This story is full of many different characters and little stories, i'm sure you will enjoy it! The pacing was VERY GOOD!
TaraMarie28 More than 1 year ago
I bought this book as a summer ready but it ended up being my spring read because I could not put it down. This book is heartfelt, intriguing, and well-written. I highly recommend!
jt7279 More than 1 year ago
this is a great book. so good that i couldn't put down. can't wait for another book by Irene Zutell.
piabernardino More than 1 year ago
I bought this book not because I wanted to read it but because of a contest and since I had it, then might as well. I was one of those readers who had low expectations on this book, to my surprise it was such a great story that I finished this is one day. Looking forward her other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a-wise-reader More than 1 year ago
Wow, was I blown away by this book. I expected to think it was just ok, but I loved it. The author touched on some of life's realities in an inspired and touching way. Instead of ending with the obvious, you're left to imagine the happy ending for Alice and Gabby.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Entertainment lawyer Alex Hirsh accompanied by his wife Alice and their daughter five year old Gabby, relocate from New York to the San Fernando Valley. Alex lands a high maintenance client box-office queen Rose Maris. However, he also begins to change going to a gym to work out helped by a trainer and turning to Armani. Soon he begins to work late hours becomes a tabloid favorite for his late nights with Rose Maris. Being a native New Yorker, Alice, once her tear ducts go desert dry, is not one to back down from a confrontation even in wonderland. However, she starts wondering if she wants Alex, who now goes by the name Xander back, as two eccentric female neighbors encourage her to after two hunks she finds interesting. PIECES OF HAPPILY EVER AFTER is a well written drama that is saved from the stereotype cabinet by Alice who's refreshing with her New York shtick of disparaging (must have been a Brooklyn Dodger fan in a past life) of everything SO CAL. She and her new BFFs (the profanity queen and the retired porn star) bring humorous withering condemnations of Southern California especially men who think with their lower head like Xander. Yet surprisingly the strength of the novel rests with the mother and daughter relationship as Irene Zutell provides a strong family tale. Harriet Klausner