Same As It Never Was

Same As It Never Was

by Claire Scovell Lazebnik

Paperback(First St. Martin's Griffin Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312312503
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 07/01/2004
Edition description: First St. Martin's Griffin Edition
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.52(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Claire Scovell LaZebnik is from Boston and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her writer husband and four children.

What People are Saying About This

Jenny McPhee

The one-liners come fast and furious from the lips of Olivia Martin, the complex and beyond cynical heroine of Claire Scovell LaZebnik's engaging, funny, and far-from-ordinary debut novel. LaZebnik's entertaining and poignant tale of a tragic twist of fate that throws Olivia's life into dazzling upheaval is written in a bullet-sleek, knife-sharp prose that is a delight to read.

Beth Gutcheon

Claire LaZebnik has written an amazingly sure-footed, witty and delicious novel, romantic and smart. A pure pleasure.

Karen Karbo

Claire Scovell LaZebnik's first novel is as tough and sassy as its heroine, the bright, sarcastic, and ultimately lovable Olivia Martin, who seems to have sprung from the loins of Holden Caulfield. This book is a ride down Sunset Boulevard in a convertible: breezy, breathtaking and hugely satisfying. While reading it, you don't want to be anywhere else.

Jane Heller

An amazingly assured first novel full of dry wit, an observant eye and a lot of heart. Her heroine pushes all the emotional buttons - you hate her, you relate to her, you root for her, and, above all, you laugh at her hilarious one-liners. This is a romance with bite, and I enjoyed every morsel.

Jennifer Chiaverini

Claire Scovell Lazebnik's Same As It Never Was is a marvelous debut, full of fresh, original characters, engaging humor, and unexpected tenderness.

Reading Group Guide

About the Book: Olivia Martin, the twenty-one-year-old narrator of Claire Scovell LaZebnik's first novel, Same As It Never Was, drinks, swears, drives fast cars, and is, as she would put it, most definitely not a warm and fuzzy kind of person. And why should she be? She has an unpleasant rich father and an annoyingly clingy mother-their divorce may have freed them from each other, but it didn't free her from them. The only good thing about Olivia's life right now is that she's escaped to college where she thinks she may be falling for the sexy young section leader of her English literature class.

The sudden news that her father and his second wife are killed in a car crash stuns Olivia, but then she gets hit with even more shocking news-they've named her guardian of her three-year-old half-sister Celia.

Olivia may not be the introspective type, but she knows enough to recognize that she's one of the least maternal women in the world, and she tries desperately to explain this to Dennis Klein, the executor of her father's will. She won't do it. She can't do it. She doesn't really know Celia and doesn't particularly want to.

But when Dennis quietly says, "It's the right thing to do," Olivia realizes for the first time in her life that there are duties you can't just shrug off. On Christmas Eve, she moves into her dead father's mansion and faces the terrifying reality of becoming an instant parent. Her mother's insistence that she come along to help only increases both Olivia's despair and her responsibilities.

The girl who only wanted freedom and solitude becomes the head of a large household. Through all the expected pitfalls and surprising joys of learning to care for a young child, Olivia never loses her acid tongue or her sense of humor, but she does gain an appreciation of her own innate decency-something she's kept hidden from everyone, even herself, up till now. And when she finds herself torn between the two men who love her, she comes to realize that decency matters between the sheets as well as in the nursery.

Written in strong, humorous prose, Same As It Never Was captures the privileged world of the west side of Los Angeles and the triumphant joy of sacrificing freedom for the love of your family and a future with the right guy.

Review: Twenty-one-year-old college student Olivia Martin has made an art of building walls to keep the world out. Saddled with an immature mother, domineering father, cold stepmother, and bratty four-year-old half-sister, Olivia is more than happy to keep her distance from the people she sarcastically calls her "family." But when her father and stepmother are tragically killed in a car accident, the responsibility for half-sister Celia's care lands squarely on her shoulders. Suddenly faced with a new role, Olivia realizes that this may be her second change to be a part of a family - something she always figured she was better off without. LaZebnik has written a poignant debut novel that's funny and touching by turns. In a solid, well-told narrative, she skillfully contrasts Olivia's prickliness with her mother's and Celia's neediness, and her ability to draw a disparate cast of characters together into a new family makes for an engaging read. Highly recommended for most public libraries. - Amy Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY; Library Journal, April 15, 2003

Discussion Questions:

1. Olivia swears, drinks, has an acid wit, and hates kids-but almost always does the right thing. Is Olivia a better person than most modern heroines-or a worse one?

2. When in this book does someone SAY the right thing but not do it? How about the opposite-when does someone speak rudely but act morally? How is the recurring theme of substance versus surface played out in other ways in the book?

3. Why was the character of the nanny important to include in the book? If everything else had been the same, but Celia had been all alone in the world when Olivia came to be with her, would it have changed the book in any significant way?

4. How important is the setting of the novel to its story? How would the book be different if Olivia and Celia's father hadn't been rich? Why did the author choose to make him wealthy?

5. Why is Joe Olivia's first real boyfriend? Do you think other guys have tried to go out with her in the past? What's special about him? Are they a good match in some ways?

6. What kind of a mother is Barbara? How about Alicia? Are there any good mothers in the book? How about "good mothers" who aren't really mothers, but who play an important nurturing role in someone's life?

7. Obviously there's a huge age difference between Olivia and Dennis, but how different do you think their romantic and sexual levels of experience are? Are they well matched despite the difference in their ages, or is it an attraction of opposites? Will the relationship last once the book ends?

8. When do you think Dennis first starts thinking about Olivia romantically? When does she start being aware of him as more than just the executor of her father's will? How aware is she of her own feelings for people throughout the book?

9. The title of the book is a play on the Talking Heads song "Once in a Lifetime." Why? What does it mean? Where is there a reference to the song in the book?

10. Why is an appealing young man (Henry) introduced in one of the last chapters? Is it to provide Olivia with another romantic choice--or to make it clear she's not looking for one? Why doesn't she fall for him?

11. Is Heather from Harvard REALLY evil?

About the Author: Claire Scovell LaZebnik is from Boston and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her writer husband and four children.

Customer Reviews

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Same As It Never Was 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loved the book! Couldn't put it down. I can't wait to read another by Claire LaZebnik.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am going to buy the book soon but I saw the movie on ABC family called 'Hello sister, goodbye Life!' It was the best ever Lacey Chabert(Olivia)is the best actress ever!I would recommened this book for anyone escpecially teens and adults. If you haven't seen the movie or read the book you should it's the best. The only problem is in the book the little girl is 3 but in the movie she is 7. It changes some stuff. But other than that this is my favorite movie and book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started this book this morning and had to force myself to put it down. It is that good! A must read for anyone. I already know it will end up to be one of my favorie books even though I haven't finished it yet.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was absolutely one of the best books. I read it in two days, couldn't put it down. I wish it hadn't had to end! You won't be disappointed in this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Livvy Martin is a girl after my own heart (or more like a little too much like me). I couldn¿t put this book down as a read about the dysfunctional life in LA. College women will relate to Livvy¿s crush on her TA (who hasn¿t had one) and high school girls will likely aspire to be Livvy. Everyone else over 21 (like myself) will relish in the memories and the delightful story. A must read for the summer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Looking for a great beach book? Here it is. A fun, light-hearted, coming-of-age story of jealousy, heartbreak, and true love. Reminiscent of other great chick lit books in its ability to bring you in, remind you of your childhood, and give you hope. I loved it! Livvy Martin is hilarious.
harstan More than 1 year ago
UCLA junior Olivia Martin detests her extended family for honoring her with an advance degree in relational cynicism. Her mother is so pathetically immature that Olivia wonders whom raised who. Her father is so bossy, she wonders if anyone else is allowed oxygen when he is around. His second wife always defers to her royal husband on anything no matter how minuscule it seems. Finally, her preschool half sister Celia is so girlish she serves as a reminder for why she loathes anyone who mentions the virtues of families. Beware Dan Quayle.

However, her college haven ends when her father and his spouse die in a car crash. Though inheriting the large LA mansion is not a shock, being named guardian to prissy Celia is. Trying to avoid premature motherhood and continue with her good time lifestyle, Olivia begins to care for her sad ward. Soon Olivia begins to fall in love with the executor of her father's estate, but Dennis Klein expects her to nurture her half-sister beyond turning on the TV and giving the brat sugar. He demands she do the decent thing.

Though poignant, readers will wonder about the girl whom sought freedom at any cost becoming so responsible and dependable not because of her sis' need, but due to the exec's response. Still the characters engage the audience as Olivia struggles with a dysfunctional family before the car accident and even afterward as the ghost of her overbearing dad lingers and her helpless mom tries to 'help'. Fans of a coming of age chick lit drama will relish Claire Scovell LaZebnik's tale.

Harriet Klausner

Guest More than 1 year ago
We find Olivia Martin at college, too smart to find happiness in the rote sequence of events there, and scarred by an unpleasant pair of parents. Olivia¿s voice is addictive, which propelled me through this book in an afternoon and evening. The story and humor are character-driven, so they are much more satisfying than the cloying joke delivery systems usually rolled out as contemporary fiction. The characters are alternately imprisoned in situations and liberated from them by who they are, similar to the well-drawn, small-venue people of Richard Russo¿s stories. The same taut, yankee sensibility found in Russo (and Ford¿s) work is brought to bear on Los Angeles, with a cynical squint into the Pacific sunset. Olivia does not soften, but she learns and her world gets larger. As a commentary and summary of the movement of twenty-somethings into the world of true adults (power! responsibility!), Same as it Never Was rang true for me. Olivia¿s life is full of real people, believable even to the point of being unlikable in some instances. Her examination of parenthood, and the usefulness of her acerbic wit, felt real to me, and paralleled some of my own discovers around the same age. Funny, real, and memorable. I can¿t ask for more from a book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw this book in the store yesterday, and bought it because there was a glowing Jane Heller quote on the back (and I love Jane Heller). I thought I'd just start it last night, and instead stayed up to 3 a.m. finishing it. The main character is so smart and incredibly funny and watching her go through the trials of sudden parenthood was great. But what really caught me off guard was how wonderful a love story this book becomes. I won't give anything away, but it's soooo romantic! I just wish I could be reading it for the first time again tonight.