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The Room-Mating Season

The Room-Mating Season

3.7 4
by Rona Jaffe

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A powerful new novel about life and love by Rona Jaffe, the internationally bestselling author The New York Times Book Review hails as "a minor genius."

For over five decades, Rona Jaffe has captivated readers with her "deft, irresistible storytelling" (Los Angeles Times). Now this masterful author, whose books have sold more than 23 million


A powerful new novel about life and love by Rona Jaffe, the internationally bestselling author The New York Times Book Review hails as "a minor genius."

For over five decades, Rona Jaffe has captivated readers with her "deft, irresistible storytelling" (Los Angeles Times). Now this masterful author, whose books have sold more than 23 million copies worldwide, takes us through a season of friendship, discovery, betrayal, and love to tell a story of four friends and the events that shaped their futures.

Leigh, Cady, Vanessa, and Susan meet when they become roommates in a townhouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side. New York in 1963 is a place of magical enchantment and infinite possibilities, especially when you're young and eager for the adventure a big city offers. Even being crammed together in a single bedroom with a kitchen too small to accommodate a table and chairs can't diminish their high spirits. A casting assistant at a talent company, Leigh is the level-headed one, the calm at the center of the whirlwind that is their lives. Cady is a prep-school teacher, emotional, passionate, and ready for love. Vanessa, a stewardess, craves her independence above all else. Susan is the wild card. Mercurial and unconventional, she makes a decision that will have far-reaching consequences in her life-and in the lives, through the years, of the others.

Sleeping and dreaming side by side, Leigh, Cady, Vanessa, and Susan could not know the decisions they made in 1963 would be challenged later, not only because they had been young when they made them, but because the world itself was going to change around them. And then, of course, there were the events in their young lives that no one could control...the events that changed everything.

Author Biography: Rona Jaffe is the New York Times bestselling author of the internationally acclaimed novels The Road Taken, The Cousins, Family Secrets, and Five Women, as well as the classic bestsellers Class Reunion and The Best of Everything. She is the founder of the Rona Jaffe Foundation, which presents a national literary award to promising female writers.

Editorial Reviews

Jaffe, author of The Road Taken (2000) and After the Reunion (1985), presents another gentle, knowing, and compulsively readable coming-of-age story.
Publishers Weekly
Looking for Mr. Right and loving Mr. Wrong brings three women together in friendships that last four decades in this by-the-numbers saga by veteran Jaffe (Class Reunion, etc.). She follows the lives of three women-Leigh, Cady and Vanessa-who meet as ingenues in New York City, fresh out of college in 1963. The trio, plus a fourth roommate, Susan, share an Upper East Side townhouse. Leigh aspires to become a casting agent, Cady teaches high school English and Vanessa is an airline stewardess (aka a "vending machine on legs"). Susan, a mousy, slightly eccentric receptionist with a desperate air, is disliked by the other three, who eventually ask her to leave (the last straw is a case of possibly contagious warts that the hapless Susan develops). But on the weekend Susan is supposed to move out, she dies in an apparent suicide. Her death casts an intermittent pall over the next 40 years as Cady and Leigh experience life-altering romances with married men while Vanessa's surprise pregnancy finds her heading to the altar. Jaffe speeds through these decades; her portraits of the women as adults are hurried and superficial, and world events get cursory, cliched treatment ("It was late winter of 1964.... It was, and would be, a year of change. The new hot group, the Beatles, was singing their innocent hit, `I Want to Hold Your Hand'"). The breezy romances keep the pages turning, but Jaffe's fans may feel that she's working on autopilot. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another women-through-the-decades drama from Jaffe (The Road Taken, 2000, etc.), this time based on a premise from a newspaper article she wrote in 1963. The original Herald-Tribune story chronicled the travails of single "girls" forced to share tiny, expensive Manhattan apartments while they held down low-paying jobs and hunted for husbands. The level of Jaffe’s inventiveness in her fictional elaboration can be judged by the fact that she recycles many of the article’s details. Leigh Owen, a 23-year-old secretary at "the powerful Star Management talent agency," can afford the outrageous $200 monthly rent on an Upper East Side one-bedroom apartment only if she gets three roommates. She recruits fellow Pembroke grad Cady Fineman, sexy stewardess Vanessa Preet, and dull doctor’s receptionist Susan Brown. Jaffe sketches her characters with broad strokes: Leigh is smart, self-possessed, ambitious; much-older Star partner David Graham encourages her to become an agent. Emotionally needy Cady teaches high-school English, stagnates in a long-term affair with a student’s father, Paul, and is always being bailed out of financial trouble by her mother. Vanessa is casually promiscuous. Susan is a dreary drag, and the other three don’t like her, though they’re guilt-ridden when it seems their hostility has driven her to suicide. Shortly thereafter, the remaining roommates go their separate ways. Pregnant Vanessa marries a lawyer she doesn’t love and relocates in California. Cady moves into a fancy apartment paid for by Paul, whom everyone but Cady realizes will never leave his wife. Leigh marries David, has perfect children and a perfect life. All stay in touch and also remain friends with CharlieRackley, a platonic pal from their roommate days who maintains his crush on Vanessa and eventually clears up the mystery of Susan’s death. It’s very stock stuff, but with the exception of some embarrassing scene-setting paragraphs ("The decade that was to be known as the ‘Me Decade’ had begun and people wanted it all"), Jaffe handles it adequately. For undemanding readers.

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.14(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Room-Mating Season

By Rona Jaffe

Dutton Books

Copyright © 2003 Rona Jaffe
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0525947132

Chapter One

Leigh Owen looked back at 1963 as if she were watching other people, almost strangers; not herself and her three roommates - so far away and different they all seemed. Sometimes it embarrassed her to see those distant girls, with their innocence and their juiciness, their long-limbed breathless sexuality, and sometimes it made her jealous. They were twenty-three years old, young and pretty and arrogant, excited about being in New York at their first jobs, living together in a nice, but small, apartment they could only afford because they all lived together. A town house on the Upper East Side: a brownstone (except that it was gray) with one bedroom for all of them, crammed together in their little single beds, a kitchen you couldn't even sit down in, a bathroom. Since the living room was used to entertain men, they put up with their dormitory-style sleeping arrangements: because the purpose of being young and pretty was to meet men, and eventually to marry.

Before they married they planned to live fully, of course. They were filled with wonder and optimism and looking forward to adventures. None of them was a native New Yorker, and to them New York was the magical city. Everything would happen here, whatever everything was.

When she looked at the few photographs she had of thefour of them in those days, Leigh was surprised at how soft their faces looked, almost un-formed. Almost blank. But there were all kinds of emotions hiding underneath those unrevealing faces: anxiety, doubt (despite the arrogance), and often confusion. At times they felt deeply inadequate. They knew they were naove, and they wanted to learn.

When those girls looked in the mirror it was to put on their eyeliner, to do their hair. They didn't question the face they saw there, or feel sad at its mortality, its impermanence. Age was a terrible thing, Leigh thought, at sixty now and knowing a great deal more. Age made you invisible. It made you know too much, too late. No one would want that knowledge at twenty-three. So of course, when older people told you what was in store, you thought it would never happen to you. Or, at least, happen so many years later that it was unimaginable.

They had been four young women on the cusp of great social and moral change; the end of the fifties behind them, the rise of the sixties still a few years away. They listened to Beach Boys music, they all wanted to look and dress like Jackie Kennedy, they knew there was civil unrest and that many thousands of people were marching on Washington, and that there was something going on in Vietnam, which was sort of like a war, but not really. The truth was they hardly read the newspapers.

They were Leigh and Cady and Vanessa and Susan. She, Leigh Owen, was the calm at the heart of the whirlwind; the tall, self-possessed blonde who got elected class president. She had always known she had responsibilities, although sometimes a moment of unexpected recklessness surprised her. Cady Fineman was the emotional one. Cady had strong opinions and stronger passions. Cady was the romantic one and, Leigh had to admit, she was a bit of a princess. Vanessa Preet was the gorgeous one, and the one who most needed freedom and adventure. The stewardess who flew high, even when she was on the ground. And Susan Brown? Well, Leigh had finally realized, as much as they knew about her, none of them had ever really known Susan at all.

Sleeping and dreaming side by side, they could not know that the decisions they made in 1963 would be challenged later, not only because they had been young when they made them but because the world itself was going to transform around them. And then, of course, there were the events in their young lives that no one could control ... the ones that changed everything.

It was late winter of 1963, and Leigh Owen, who was twenty-three and working as an underpaid secretary at the powerful Star Management talent agency, was tired of living in a hovel. Her fifth-floor walk-up apartment above a restaurant always smelled of fish and grease. It was one tiny room that looked out on a dismal street below her fire escape, and contained two twin beds only a foot apart - what could she have been thinking of, a guest? - two straight chairs, and a small dresser; a plenitude of furniture that made walking around her apartment an obstacle course that resulted too often in bruises. She had no air conditioner so it was hot and even smellier in summer, and her landlord was stingy with heat so it was cold in winter. No matter how much she cleaned it - and there wasn't much time for a single girl in New York to clean apartments - her studio still looked grimy.

She knew she had to face the fact that she just couldn't live alone any longer. She needed a better place, and she would need roommates, otherwise she couldn't afford the hundred dollars or more a month that decent living quarters would require.

She was an efficient person, as they often told her at work, and so it didn't take her long to find an apartment she immediately fell in love with. It was a one bedroom with a living room and kitchen in a stately old town house on the Upper East Side located on a quiet tree-lined street of other similar houses. It was only one flight up, which was a relief. There was an air conditioner in the bedroom window, three closets, and the living room looked huge to her, with a bay window overlooking the lovely street, and a non-working but still picturesque fireplace in one wall.


Excerpted from The Room-Mating Season by Rona Jaffe Copyright © 2003 by Rona Jaffe. Excerpted by permission.
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The Room-Mating Season 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the past, I have really enjoyed Rona Jaffe's books but the enjoyment stops here. This has to be one of the worst books ever written. I almost bought it when it first came out at nearly $25. But lucky for me, I stumbled on it for $7 at a warehouse outlet. Actually, I probably overpaid by $6. The characters were not interesting, the plotting was weak and contrived and it took way too much exposition to explain the characters' motivations. Just like a a good sitcom ending at its peak, Jaffe should have quit while she was on top. Don't waste your time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Room-Mating Season was such an engaging romance story. I really loved it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rona Jaffe is one of my favorite authors. New books by Jaffe have been rare in recent years but she does not disappoint with the Room-Mating Season. As most of her stories do, this one follows the lives of four main characters individually and intertwined with each other. I bought this book the day it came out and saved it for a weekend at the beach when I could read, undisturbed, all weekend. It was excellent. The characters were, in a way, familiar but also new and different. It was so hard not to speed through this to see what happens to each person and how their lives end up and this book had a surprising twist unlike any of her others.