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The Social Climber's Handbook

The Social Climber's Handbook

2.5 11
by Molly Jong-Fast

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Upper East Side socialite Daisy Greenbaum is accustomed to the finer things—designer clothes, summers in the Hamptons, elite private school educations for her daughters, and a staggeringly expensive Park Avenue apartment. But Daisy finds her well-heeled lifestyle on precarious footing after her husband, master of


Upper East Side socialite Daisy Greenbaum is accustomed to the finer things—designer clothes, summers in the Hamptons, elite private school educations for her daughters, and a staggeringly expensive Park Avenue apartment. But Daisy finds her well-heeled lifestyle on precarious footing after her husband, master of the universe Dick Greenbaum, learns about some shady dealings that threaten his position at The Bank.

Daisy refuses to allow her family to slip down the social ladder, so she devises a madcap plan: Anyone who jeopardizes her place at the top will simply have to be dispatched—six feet under. From Dick’s arrogant boss to his scheming former mistress to a pair of nosy bloggers, Daisy’s hit list is a who’s who of big names with even bigger secrets. But with the body count rising as the Dow Jones falls, can Daisy really get away with murder?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jong-Fast pokes twisted fun at New York City's elite in her trite follow-up to Normal Girl. It's the spring of 2008, and trader Dick Greenbaum and his wife, Daisy, have clawed their way to the highest levels of Upper East Side society: they've got a million Park Avenue apartment, their daughters attend private schools, and Daisy volunteers at the best charities. But the financial collapse looms, and a few skeletons are rattling around in their walk-in closets. Daisy is prepared to remove any obstacles in their way—starting with Dick's "reputation-ruining" boss (poison) and his meddlesome ex-mistress (blunt force trauma). But when a pair of bloggers begin investigating Dick's company's financial dealings, they have no idea they'll have to confront the Upper East Side's most unlikely murderess. Daisy's victims deserve their grisly comeuppance, painted as they are by Jong-Fast as simple villains, though Daisy herself is hardly an avenging angel. As a campy bloodbath à la Patrick Bateman in Jimmy Choos, the story succeeds, but the critique of the excesses of the recent past gets lost in the fluff. (May)
From the Publisher
One of "the month's must reads."—Town & Country

"Required reading."—New York Post

"[A] wickedly satiric serial-killer novel...which somehow calls to mind both Gossip Girl and American Psycho."—Entertainment Weekly

"The pairing of an outsider’s eye with an insider’s zip code has afforded Jong-Fast a certain perspective in her satire. At the same time she’s sending society up, she’s aiming to create characters readers care about."—Women's Wear Daily

"Kudos go to author Molly Jong-Fast for capturing the state of womanhood and married life in its grittiest and for creating believable characters who do things that make people say, you can’t make this stuff up...There is great comedy in this novel. It’s like Conan O’Brien was invited to comment on this funeral for women without options."—Forbes

"Deliciously wicked! Molly Jong-Fast's quick wit and keen eye make her the new queen of comedy. An irresistible read."—Meg Cabot, author of Insatiable and the Princess Diaries series

“Molly Jong-Fast so skillfully conjures an American Psycho for the Bergdorf’s set that it leads one to wonder why more beautiful heads didn’t fall along with the Dow.”—Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus, authors of The Nanny Diaries

"Molly Jong-Fast’s new novel is a razor-sharp, hilarious account of the summer of 2008 seen through the eyes of my favorite serial murderess, Daisy Greenbaum, who’s only trying to keep home, hearth, and her Upper East Side social life intact. I ate up every word."—Gigi Levangie Grazer, author of Queen Takes King 

"As addictive as Valrhona chocolate and every bit as delicious. Molly Jong-Fast's ability to inhabit such a wide range of high and low characters is nothing short of miraculous.  Jong-Fast's prose is hilarious, surprising and very smart. I absolutely loved this book."—Julie Klam, author of You Had Me at Woof

"Molly Jong-Fast's slick, sophisticated romp through the Upper East Side 'haves' is a fast, funny and smart piece of fiction. Read this book!"—Laura Zigman, author of Animal Husbandry

"Snortingly funny, astonishingly observant, The Social Climber's Handbook is the kind of blissfully entertaining novel I wish I could read every night."—Caitlin Macy, author of Spoiled

"Mix two cups Jane Austen, a dash of Fran Lebowitz, a tablespoon of Tom Wolfe, and a pinch of Jonathan Swift; stir vigorously with Freddy Krueger’s bladed glove; set to simmer atop your Viking stove in your Park Avenue duplex, and you will begin to appreciate the delectable dish that is Molly Jong-Fast’s satire. Better yet? Just order in take-out and read this book."—Deborah Copaken Kogan, author of Between Here and April and Shutterbabe

"Molly Jong-Fast is one of New York City’s funniest people, and with The Social Climber’s Handbook—a dark satire of Upper East Side manners, Wall Street crimes, and a little light serial murder—she really puts the dead into deadpan. Like its author, this book is shameless, tasteless and ruthless—and extremely good company."—Rebecca Mead, author of One Perfect Day

"Terrific. Molly Jong-Fast's wit is superb, and the way she portrays the Upper East Side family life is fascinatingly intriguing...This was a book I found difficult to put down once I got into it."—Fresh Fiction

"Edgy...Darkly comic take on the 'greed is good' shenanigans that led up to the recent financial apocalypse."—Kirkus Reviews

“Twisted fun…a campy bloodbath à la Patrick Bateman in Jimmy Choos.”—Publishers Weekly

"No doubt you may be wondering what becomes of Daisy in this quirky novel. Sorry; that would ruin the fun and the story's ending. You'll have to find a copy and see if and how justice is finally served if, indeed, it ever is!"—BookLoons

"A real page-turner and I highly recommend it!"—Coterie Books

"Funny as hell...Irresistible."—Connecticut News

Praise for the author's previous novel:
Normal Girl is a searing, bitchy, funny novel about privilege in wretched excess and the accidental nature of grace.  Molly Jong-Fast is a prodigy.  Parents everywhere should be horrified by this deeply impressive debut.” – Jay McInerney

“Rich in dark comedy and sad pronouncements.  The writing is always taut and effective, precise and assured.”London Times
“[Molly Jong-Fast] has a great ear and a keen eye for the tired and tawdry world she describes here…obvious talent.”  — The Boston Globe
“Already posted to be as talked-about as Fear of Flying.”  — Interview 
“An edgy comedy about a 19-year-old rich girl in New York who has ‘more issues than Harper’s Bazaar.’” – USA Today
“So much talent, so young a writer! Hard-edged, savage, funny, brilliant.”  — Fay Weldon
“If you want to know what goes on in the minds of New York’s young, rich, and famous, read Molly Jong-Fast’s hilarious novel, Normal Girl.” – Susan Cheever

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt



chapter One

June 2, 2008

Dow closes down 134.50 points to 12,503.82S&P closes down 14.71 points to 1,395.67

Daisy Greenbaum looked over at her husband, Dick, master of the universe. He was wearing one of those white strips on the bridge of his nose. He had a black mask on his eyesthat read british airways across it. Tucked neatly in his mouth was a custom-made mouth guard so he didn’t grind his teeth, and looking at him across their California king-sized bed Daisy might have thought for a slip of a second (before she banished that thought away, like all her other vaguely communist urges) that this was a man on whom making money had taken its toll.

“I love you.”

Dick kept snoring.

“I love you.”

Through his mouth guard Dick Greenbaum squeezed out the words: “I have to be at work in approximately seven hours and twenty-two minutes and eleven seconds. Go to sleep.”

“I can’t sleep.”

Dick opened one eye, but only slightly. “Take something.”

“I said I love you.”

Dick sat up with a start. He took off his eye mask and opened his eyes. “We are about to be faced with the biggest economic crisis of our lifetime. Next month you may see breadlines, a true unemployment rate of 22.1 percent. Never mind. I need to go to bed.”

“You didn’t say anything when I told you that I . . .”

“Imagine a world with no credit, no lending, imagine a world where you go into the Prada store on Madison and there is nothing on the shelves, and don’t get me started on your precious Starbucks. Okay, now I need to be there in seven hours and twenty-one minutes”—he looked down at his expensive self-winding watch—“and thirty seconds, okay?”

In her infinite sadness, it seemed to Daisy Greenbaum that the loneliest time of the year on Manhattan’s Upper East Side was the week between when the private schools let out and the social families packed up their Denalis and headed for the beach. The third week of June was the demarcation line: once it was crossed over, all of the apartments on Park Avenue would be dark, except for the flicker of the occasional husband enjoying a quiet tryst with a secretary or a nubile young associate.

Daisy Greenbaum hated summer. And perhaps this could have been traced back to a lifetime of summers spent at Camp Shane (or, as she called it, Camp Shame), a “loving, accepting, nurturing weight- loss invitational,” which was known by people occupying the real world as “fatty camp.”

Or maybe it was her hatred of sand, of heat, of sun, of wearing less clothing, of shedding her cavernous sweaters and her enormous winter coat. And maybe the rest of the world tacitly agreed. Summer was a time of mourning, a time to muse on various losses (real and imagined), a time when different layers of rarefied folks plunged through different layers of loss, all narrated by the constant zombifying hum of giant air conditioners. Loss affected everyone in every section of every gentrified neighborhood—the bookish Upper West Siders mourned the loss of their shrinks in August, the Brooklyn hipsters mourned the loss of their parents’ ramshackle summer cottages on Fire island, the barely-getting-by working parents mourned the death of the school year. Yes, summer was the bleakest time of the year, and this summer was to be the last golden summer of the Dow at thirteen thousand.

Daisy was standing, feet on the cold white tile, in her gray linen pajamas (Daisy had seven identical pairs, all ironed by Nina, the long-suffering housekeeper, on Tuesdays, which was the day that Easton, the fancy twin, went riding in Manhasset and Avery, the funky twin, went to her acting class in the West Village). Daisy stared at herself in her enormous bathroom mirror. It was six a.m. and the sun was bright, or as bright as it could be, considering that she lived on the second floor. She squinted at herself. She didn’t look like all the other mummies of the yummy variety. She had white skin that had never seen the inside of a tanning booth (spray or otherwise). She had regular features (her grandmother had always complimented her on her nonethnic nose, and she knew what this meant), pretty and appropriately sized for her slightly equine face, which was just slightly too long to be beautiful. Every time she looked in the mirror she remembered that she had been what had seemed (to her at the time) grotesquely fat in her youth. As a result she had never considered herself a pretty girl; hence she had developed a somewhat charming personality.

Having a good personality had served her—she had married up (her husband had found her amusing), and she wasn’t fat anymore, though she wasn’t exactly thin; she was Banana Republic thin. Not truly thin, not thin like the other ladies on Park Avenue with their exposed vertebrae and their sharp, bony hips, but thin. Her Polish DNA, from her zaftig great-granny from the shtetl, would guarantee that she would never be Prada thin. But she didn’t really care, and besides, she was funny. Maybe not laugh-out-loud funny, but ironic. And she was smart. Maybe not Ivy League smart, but Brandeis smart, which was still smarter than 99.99 percent of the yummy mummies on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. And she was striking, with enormous blue eyes, which made her look like a model from the Eastern Bloc. A fat model from the Eastern Bloc.

She tweezed at a few stray chin hairs with her green metal tweezers. Soon Dick and the girls would be up, shattering the exquisite silence of morning. Soon she’d be burning waffles, and fighting with the extremely expensive espresso machine, and spilling orange juice on the floor. But for that slip of a second she was the last woman on earth, alone in the silence, alone enough to think. Daisy Greenbaum’s brain was permanently awash in a sea of minutiae, constantly focused on trivialities, like who was the better dry cleaner and who made the best saddles. But Daisy had a secret, and it cut through the minutiae like a great white shark. Daisy knew what she was capable of. Daisy knew the animal that lurked inside of her, the one who could not be calmed by a million yoga lessons. She stared at her own eyes until the blue faded into itself, until her face faded into the mirror, until everything around her was smooth and blurry.

But there was trouble in the world of unfathomable wealth; Dick had passed down the edict—no more spending, no more car services, no Hampton house this summer, no more shopping, no more three-hundred-dollar dresses for the girls, no more trips to the Breakers, no more dinners at Per Se. Daisy looked back at her long face. She wasn’t one of those airheaded trophy wives. She knew that one of two things had happened—one was that Dick had fucked up something big in whatever it was he did (she wasn’t totally sure what he did, something with debt, something called credit default swaps), and the other was that what he had told her about the crumbling of the equities markets was actually true (but she couldn’t quite wrap her head around this story).

After all, it was June 2008 and Barneys was still packed with ladies vying to buy thousand-dollar-a-pair lizard-skin platforms, condos and co-ops were still flying off the shelves, waiting lists for various gotta-have-it accessories were still snaking around the block, the culture of scarcity and panic among the wealthy was still going strong (not enough preschool spots, not enough Hampton houses, not enough Mandarin-speaking nannies, oh my). But some small men in large offices who worked for monstrous investment banks saw the writing on the wall, and the writing was recession, depression, end-of-the-world bad. One of these men was Dick Greenbaum, Daisy’s small and vaguely simian husband.

Every night since March 14, when Morgan and the Fed had provided a twenty-eight-day emergency loan to Bear Stearns, he had suffered from some variation on the same nightmare. Somehow the collapse of Bear Stearns had made Dick realize that the whole system was intrinsically flawed. He wasn’t stupid and he had known the system was truly fucked for a long time, but he kept thinking the debt wouldn’t catch up with the bets. He thought it could keep going like this for years. But the crash of Bear was the death knell for the American economy. He saw it all very clearly. And in this clarity he realized his life was a house (or an apartment, as the case may be) of derivatives, and these derivatives (he was pretty sure) might well take down the American economy. And so suddenly he was panicked about the lack of derivatives regulation—where were the necessary derivatives clearinghouses? Who the hell was keeping track of all the little pieces of paper that were representing trillions of dollars of debt? It was as if one day Dick woke up and realized that bad math was going to eat up the entire world and that he somehow had to stop it.

The worst dream, the one that haunted him, the one that made him wonder what it was that he was doing on this earth, was this dream (it was a recurring dream but it always sort of went like this)—it started with him sitting there in his favorite brown pinstripe suit (the one that made him look five feet eight instead of five feet six, and tan instead of jaundiced) enjoying his strawberries and his champagne. Then a stewardess came out in her little blue frock. Usually in the dream it was one of two secretaries, neither of whom were in real life stewardesses: one was Maggie, the thick-calved Irish girl, but in some of the dreams it was Candice, the plucky-but-not-great-looking single mom. Everything would be going along just fine when all of a sudden there would be a popping sound, like someone making popcorn, and then the window next to him would pop open and then things would start getting sucked into the ether. Everything that was on the polished mahogany coffee table in front of him would go flying into the air. He would try to grab all these papers, all his careful, thoughtful documentation of his theorems. But it would be too late, the paper would melt through his hands and then he would wake up covered in sweat and gasping for breath. Sometimes Daisy would notice and volunteer a few semisoothing sentences (none of which really hit the right note with Dick), and sometimes she would pretend not to see him dripping in his own sweat, laboring to catch his breath.

Meet the Author

Molly Jong-Fast is the author of Normal Girl, Girl, Maladjusted, and The Social Climber’s Handbook.  She has written for many newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Harpers Bazaar, W Magazine, Cosmo, The Times (UK), and Marie Claire.  She lives in Manhattan.  She is married to a recovering academic.  They have three very small children, all of whom like to talk to her when she is on the phone. 

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The Social Climber's Handbook 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
From the description of this book, I was excited to add it to my review pile. But after reading it, I am not so sure about it. With the excessive financial talk and the crazy lady killing, I just didn't enjoy it. I would put it in the genre of dark comedy and although some may enjoy it - not really my thing.
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nicole1006 More than 1 year ago
This was a very quick read, but a disappointing one as well. I was expecting much more, and to be honest I kept waiting for that "much more," but it did not deliver.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
This story takes place in 2008 when the crap was ready to hit the fan on Wall Street. Daisy Greenbaum's husband is a financial mogul for "The Bank" and he probably knows more about the collapse about to happen than he should and he starts to find away around the impending doom, but his boss shuts him down quite quickly. He needs to keep his mouth shut if he wants to keep his job. Daisy is as a socialite who lunches and who throws parties and she starts to realize that the life she has become quite accustomed to may disappear and that her husband's past mistress may not be as far in the past as her husband has led her to believe. Daisy decides she must take her family's future into her own hands to protect them. She will stop at nothing, even murder to protect the one's she loves. This is a very dark comedic look at the people most of us already hate because of the economic collapse and the huge bonuses still paid to the people in the banking industry. It was well-written and a fast read. I think with this book the author can stop referring to herself as the daughter of Erica Jong and stand on her own as an author. Her husband works in the financial industry so he was able to provide her with a good insight. I had two problems with the book. Not one character in the book was remotely likable even the Greenbaum's twin daughters. The other was that one daughter was clearly favored over the other. Other than that this book had some unexpected turns and was entertaining. It is definitely not a mystery novel and not really chick-lit either. I would definitely put this into some sort of "noir" category. It was with a doubt an interesting story. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. 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.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
Dick and Daisy Greenbaum are part of the upper end of the social ladder, until the recession hits and Dick may lose his job. Daisy doesn't want to lose her status or money, so she decides that murder is one way. This is not a murder mystery, but a satire of the elitist lifestyle. It is a fast paced comedy, but I feel the author tries too hard. I liked it, but didn't love it.
BookAddictFL More than 1 year ago
This novel is a satirical look at the elite social class, right when our financial world was on the brink of collapse. Daisy has always been twisted and now she's rich. She decides that killing is a much better alternative to losing her money and social status. I chuckled through the first third of the book. The characters and the way their situations were portrayed kept me amused. I found the second murder far too convenient and easy and none of the characters were even remotely likable. I had a hard time caring what happened to these people. For me, the humor lost its edge because there just wasn't enough substance to the story to keep me engaged.
harstan More than 1 year ago
social status. The elite power couple resides in a million dollar Park Avenue apartment while their daughters attend the best private schools. However, the recession leaves Wall St. in jeopardy and the upper crust like the Greenbaum family in jeopardy of a rapid descent down the ladder. Daisy refuses to allow their position to drop one iota. She needs to remove obstacles like her husband's boss and his former mistress by any reasonable means that will take them out of the picture permanently. However, she is more concerned with two bloggers investigating the company's shady financial dealings. Neither expected Daisy to stalk them for a fitting demise to their blog. As the stock market collapses so do enemies of the Greenbaum family. This is an engaging satire that lampoons the upper crust's penchant at all costs (to others) to retain status. The story line is fast-paced once Daisy becomes a serial killer; though her victims simplify her choosing them as they are all amorally corrupt. Although much of the sting of the tale is abated by the victims' moral bankruptcy and the not so deep focus into the exorbitance of the Let them eat cake crowd (overwhelmed by the murders), fans will enjoy the amusing Social Climber's Handbook. Harriet Klausner