Ask Again Later: A Novel

Ask Again Later: A Novel

by Jill A. Davis
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Ask Again Later: A Novel by Jill A. Davis

Emily has a tendency to live with one foot out the door. For her, the best thing about a family crisis is the excuse to cut and run. When her mother dramatically announces they've found a lump, Emily gladly takes a rain check on life to be by her mother's side, leaving behind her career, her boyfriend, and those pesky, unanswerable questions about who she is and what she's doing with her life.

But back in her childhood bedroom, Emily realizes that she hasn't run fast or far enough. One evening, while her mother calls everyone in her Rolodex to brief them on her medical crisis and schedule a farewell martini, Emily opens the door, quite literally, to find her past staring her in the face. How do you forge a relationship with the father who left when you were five years old? As Emily attempts to find balance on the emotional seesaw of her life, with the help of two hopeful suitors and her Park Avenue Princess sister, she takes a no-risk job as a receptionist at her father's law firm and slowly gets to know the man she once pretended was dead.

From the brainy, breezy writer who "writes like a professional comic" (The Onion) and is "hard to stop reading once you start" (USA Today) comes a laugh-out-loud tale that confirms you can recover from your parents, the bad habit of missed opportunities, and men who romance you with meat. When opportunity knocks, it's time to stop running and start living.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061857157
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 448,513
File size: 411 KB

About the Author

Jill A. Davis was a writer for Late Show with David Letterman, where she received five Emmy nominations. She has also written several television pilots and movie screenplays in addition to short stories. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Read an Excerpt

Ask Again Later

A Novel
By Jill Davis

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Jill Davis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060875961

Chapter One

I can remember the first Christmas after my father left. I was five. We didn't get a tree that year. We didn't buy gifts. Somehow it seemed pathetic to deck the halls and all—when Dad wasn't there. We missed opportunities. And I got really good at missing opportunities.

I am Emily. Emily Rhode. When I was in second grade, I experimented with changing my identity by misspelling my last name. I had hopes that a new spelling might transform me and permit me access to a new home, and a new life.

Sometimes it was Road. Or Rowed, and even Rode. Almost no one ever noticed the way my name was spelled. People just assume you're going to get your own name right. Except for Miss Bryan, my English teacher. She seemed curious. Or, at the very least, not comatose. She gave us an assignment.

"Write one paragraph about your home," said Miss Bryan. "Spelling counts."

Write about home . . . should I tell her the combination to the safe, too? I was eager to share, the perfect accomplice, and I didn't need more than one sentence. The sentence is as true today as it was twenty years ago: Home is a place you can never leave behind. I liked that it was both insistent and ambiguous. I spelled my name correctly, because spelling counts.

Whileyou can't leave it behind, you can look at the events of your past from a new point of view. Turn them around. See all the angles. Consider it your second chance. Second chances do come your way. Like trains, they arrive and depart regularly. Recognizing the ones that matter is the trick.

My office chair is parked behind a small desk, and on the desk is a giant phone. I intentionally use the word parked because the chair is enormous and—if you believe the old wives' tales—engineered by the Ford Motor Company.

In front of my desk is an impressive wall of bulletproof Plexiglas. It's the one thing I'll miss about this crappy job when I leave. I've been able to work in confidence knowing that if someone tries to shoot me—the fabulously sultry gal who answers the telephone—the bullets will bounce mockingly off of the Plexiglas and not disturb me from the important business of answering the telephone.

When the phone doesn't ring for a while, I start to think about bringing in my own gun and taking a couple of shots at the Plexiglas to test it. Sure the manufacturer says it's bulletproof. I don't own a piece though, and when I call a shooting range somewhere in Millbrook, New York, they tell me not to call again. Ever. They refused to answer my question. How much will it cost to hire a guy to take a couple of shots at a piece of Plexiglas in a Midtown high-rise? It isn't their line of work, they claim.

"Yeah, but bottom line it for me, sister. Send a body out to gimme an estimate. Bottom line it for me," I say.

"You're crazy, lady," they say, and hang up. I'm just killing time and hoping they'll play along, and I'm disappointed when they refuse. For a moment I worry that I work for one of those companies that monitors its phone calls under the guise of quality control. I am instantly comforted when I realize I work for a law firm too disorganized to tap its own phones.

To say all I do is answer phones is to seriously downplay my role around here. I also control the buzzer button that opens the main door, allowing lawyers into their offices after they get off of the elevator, or return from the bathroom.

Sometimes I fail to push the buzzer with the deftness they might like. I eat up a second of this person's life, five seconds of that person's life. The ones who grow impatient quickly and who are easily angered are the ones I steal twenty seconds from for the sheer pleasure of it. They grunt and growl in sincere pissiness, and it makes me feel terrific, alive in that way that you don't feel often enough.

I daydream—and get paid for it. I recall a scene from An Officer and a Gentleman. At the end of the movie Richard Gere, dressed in his naval whites, goes into a factory, picks up Debra Winger, and carries her out of that depressing place with all of those dirty machines.

I wish that would happen to me. Of course the whole time I'd be worried that the guy was trying to guess my weight or something. I realize how truly pathetic I am. Some guy in a uniform drags his woman out of the workplace to stick her in a house to cook and possibly even clip coupons, and I am starting to buy into it, into the antifemale propaganda disguised as romance. As soon as he picks her up, things have to head south from there, because at some point, he has to put her down.

I blame my father for my current situation. It's so much easier to blame him than rehash my past and actually work through it. Instead, I pin all of my disappointment and loss on my current post. I can't decide what's worse, clock-watching or minimum wage. Luckily, I'm steeped in both, so I don't have to choose.

The world of nepotism is ugly and dark. I know. There are people out there paying their dues who probably deserve to sit behind this Plexiglas more than I do. If not for the fact that my father is so well connected, I'd be forced to do a job I got solely on merit. I'd be working as a lawyer, on track to make partner, at a firm where a senior partner was not 50 percent responsible for creating me. I would be boosting my résumé and sleeping with young enthusiasts of all things legal. The notion of being shot would, in all likelihood, not even occur to me. It certainly wouldn't preoccupy me. I may be the only professional in history to take several giant steps backward by cashing in on my "connections."


Excerpted from Ask Again Later by Jill Davis Copyright © 2007 by Jill Davis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Jancee Dunn

“’ll... veer between uncontrollable laughing fits and being stunned and misty-eyed by its poignant turns.”

Dave Letterman

“Jill Davis is extremely personable, courteous, and punctual.”

Emily Griffin

“ASK AGAIN LATER is an engaging slice of life.”

Lucinda Rosenfeld

“A snappy and sardonic take on learning to love your (dysfunctional) family.”

Richard Russo

“ASK AGAIN LATER...rewards at every level.”

Customer Reviews

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Ask Again Later 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
MagooMO More than 1 year ago
For a book that I randomly picked up because I needed a book to read it was great. I was surprised at the amount of real life situations this book could relate to. Its an easy read for sure. Its not heavy reading, very light and a good book to have by the nightstand.
dnp More than 1 year ago
I was browsing through the bookstore the other day and happened to fall upon this book. It caught my eye and after reading the first couple pages I decided to buy it. I wasn't sure if I would like it at first and the reviews on barnes and noble weren't overwhelmingly positive so I was a little leary, but I honestly LOVED it. It is such a quirky, funny, lighthearted book. I like books that read this way. I wish there more authors like Jill A. Davis. I highly recommend this book! Happy reading!
bookreader79 More than 1 year ago
After reading Davis' Girls' Poker Night and being completely disappointed, I figured I would give the author another shot. I am glad I did. This book has none of the disorganization of the prior novel. While I am still not a huge fan of the three page chapters, I felt this story actually progressed with each page. While people have mentioned that the writer is humorous, I have yet to laugh out loud while reading any of her books. I did think there were many parts of this book that the average person can relate to in terms of family dynamics and I do like the way the characters' own inner issues were addressed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The main character, Emily, is well aware of her quirks and her fear of relationships. Jill Scott does a great job in making Emily likeable and her writing style makes even the saddest of situations for Emily funny.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful and funny book. I laughedmyself silly in some parts. Can not wait to read more from this author.
dtown More than 1 year ago
I never connected with the main character and the story line. I thought that it was a very choppy book. It stopped before it started with a story. There were so many chances for the book to take off if the author extended her thoughts on the event going on in the book. Don't think this author's writing style is for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This wasn't a bad book..but it wasn't great really... it doesn't have really strong characters, there isn't much of a is mostly just about her life and family a little climax or anything. not very thought provoking either. Ok rainy day book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Ask Again Later' is a fun, thoughtful novel about a 30-something year old woman, idiosyncrasies and all, and her relationships with her family, work, and friends. The story takes place in New York City, and the characters are interesting and familiar with a twist. What I like most are the hilarious scenes where the author so articulately points out the irony and humor in situations I have subconsciously noticed, but never paid attention to or put words to in the past. Ms. Davis has brilliant insights into people and is great at pointing out subtle absurdities in our everyday life while telling a captivating story. 'Girls' Poker Night' was also terrific I can't wait for her next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jill has a great sense of humor. She can make a bad situation seem funny with her use of vocabulary. The book is a fast read and enjoyable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This clever book made my recent cross-country flight feel like a quick cab ride across town! A great read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jill A. Davis somehow manages to write hysterically funny stories about the oddest people in a manner so smart and lucid that the reader is left chuckling with every page - while at the same time falling in love with the zany heroine of her latest book, Emily Rhode ('or Road' or 'Rowed' or even 'Rode', depending on the state of mind and at times acerbic patter of this marvelously created character). This is a book that sparkles with witty prose, high and low humor, and surprisingly a sensitive degree of philosophy about the current condition of life we are all living. The balance between funny and touching keeps the scales even, making the reader laugh at situations that in themselves are not at all funny - unless you have the perspective of Emily 'whatever'. Emily is a trained lawyer whose career is put on hold with the sudden hyper-dramatic news of her mother Joanie's lump. No, cancer isn't funny, but Joanie is such a wildly entertaining character that when Emily moves in to care for her, all goes slightly bizarre. We meet the father Jim who left the family when Emily was very young and for whom she has no concern, the spendthrift airhead sister Marjorie who treats the world like a shopping party, Rick the boyfriend of Emily to whom she cannot commit, Perry her gay therapeutic friend, and Paul her therapist whose sessions contain some of the most hilarious (and most insightful) moments in the book. Divided into very short, titled 'chapters', Davis ably lets us get close to Emily by exploring her foibles and her perception of the world and her family by means of what could be stand-up comedy routines - until the sadness peaks through. Marriage, therapy, death, fatal illnesses, fidelity, menial jobs for overeducated people, failed relationships - all are grist for Davis' keen mind and wit. An example of Davis' writing: 'As she's lying there waiting for surgery, I imagine a cancerous Pac-Man - or Lady Pac-Man - running through her body eating up her healthy tissues, her life, expanding its mass and taking over. Devouring the flesh that nurtured me, or longed to. I want to scream. And I'm mad that I'm of a generation that can best relate to parent's cancer to a video game.' And that is only a short tidbit of the superb writing by Jill A. Davis. This is a smart book, exceedingly well written, and one of the most entertaining reads of the year! Now in paperback... Grady Harp
Guest More than 1 year ago
Felt like I was reading about my own family and so this wonderful book helped me overcome feelings of love and loss and move to a better place.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ask Again Later was a wonderful book that I couldn't put down --wanting to see what would happen next. Along with the great story line, the author writes with such fresh wit and emotion that I was laughing out loud and also shedding some tears with the all-so-real family issues. After reading Davis's first book, I jumped at the chance to read this and was expectantly pleased!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ask Again Later was a treat to stumble upon at the local bookstore. I read it a weekend. There is a quality to the author's voice that is very inviting, or maybe it is the first person writing. I felt like I was talking to an old friend and we were playing catch up. Emily Rhodes is a lawyer who quits her job when her high-maintenance mother is diagnosed with cancer. This is a comical - though at other times poignant and sad - tale of a womans journey to adulthood. She leaves her job, her lover, and moves in with her mother. The cancer is treatable, and Emily's long lost father returns , making a perfect storm of reconciliation of the family's past. I laughed out loud and also cried.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The situations in this book are easy to relate to. Most of us have 'been there'. The author deals with negative issues with so much wit that it gives a person cause for hope in life. I'm going to read it again in the near future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the new book Ask Again Later by Jill A. Davis, Davis takes the reader on a journey through the mind of a young woman named Emily. Emily tries to escape reality countless times, and when her mother is found with cancer, she once again slips away from life. She quickly quits her prestigous job, dumps her kind boyfriend, and leaves her comforting house to run to her mommy. Read this book to find the outcome of when Emily runs away from all the good things she had. Davis really captures the reader in this book, and does a great job referring this to real life situations. This book goes from making me laugh and almost breaking into sobs when I read it. The only downfall is that some chapters tend to be slow pace. I would defiantly recommend this book, especially if your a women, young or old, looking for a great read. It took me weeks on the hold list at all Waukesha County libraries for me to finally get my hands on. So go out today, and reserve your chance to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Daivs brings up a lot of emotions, thoughts and hesitant moments we all go through in the course of our lives. She finds the humor in life without a father, and life with an eccentric mother. I particularly liked the ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While you wouldn't expect cancer and being reunited with a lost father funny, Mrs. Davis brings the humor out of all situations. Light and funny but still carrying genuine emotion, I laughed as well as cried. This is one of the best books I have read so far this year. Beautifully written, 'Ask Again Later' is simply wonderful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This would be a great book to read on a day when you don't want to think to hard. I didn't attach to the lead character very well, so I didn't love it, but it wasn't a bad book
DebsSweet More than 1 year ago
Good read!
RCReader More than 1 year ago