Four-time New York Times bestselling author and talk show host Bethenny Frankel makes her fiction debut with the novel Skinnydipping: “A totally fun, dishy read. This is the kind of book that is perfect to pack in your beach bag” (Hollywood Reporter).
Beloved by countless fans for being devilishly dishy, outrageously funny, and always giving it to us straight, four-time New York Times bestselling author Bethenny Frankel now makes her fiction debut with the story of Faith Brightstone. Faith is an aspiring actress just out of college who moves to LA determined to have it all: a job on the most popular TV show, a beach house in Malibu, and a gorgeous producer boyfriend. But when reality hits, she finds herself with a gig as a glorified servant, a role that has more to do with T&A than acting, and a dead-end relationship. Finally, Faith decides she’s had enough of La La Land and moves back to New York with just a suitcase and her dog, Muffin.
Five years later, Faith has finally found her groove as an entrepreneur and manages to land a spot on a new reality TV show hosted by her idol—the legendary businesswoman and domestic goddess, Sybil Hunter. Diving into the bizarre world of reality TV, Faith’s loud mouth and tell-it-like-it-is style immediately get her in trouble with her fellow contestants, and she learns about betrayal.
As the show comes to a dramatic close, Faith discovers that the man of her dreams may have just walked into her life. Will she choose fame or love? Or can she have it all?
|Product dimensions:||6.46(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.24(d)|
About the Author
Bethenny Frankel, a graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City, is the star of Bravo’s Bethenny Ever After…. Her recipes and health tips can be read monthly in Health. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter. Visit her at Bethenny.com.
Read an Excerpt
Where are the stilt walkers? Has anybody seen the stilt walkers?”
I’m calm, but I can hear the shrillness creeping into my voice as I picture the absolute disaster that will result if Andy doesn’t show up soon with the damn stilts and the people to put on top of them. The stilt walkers are essential—the dramatic cherry on top of the charity carnival. The finale of Domestic Goddess, and the deciding factor in the rest of my life. And isn’t that typical? You raise $80,000 for charity, you erect a forty-foot tent practically single-handedly, you hire and coordinate seventy-five employees, and you produce the whole goddamn spectacle, and then your life hangs in the balance because of a couple of clowns on sticks. Meanwhile, the cameras are rolling and America is watching. My failure would make just as good TV as my success, so nobody cares whether I win or not. Nobody but me. And this is just what Sybil Hunter expects. I have to make this work.
Somebody runs past pushing a popcorn cart that dribbles grease along the floor. The amplifier blares circus music, then cuts out with a crackling pop. A chunky, squinting boy in thick glasses grabs my arm—Jerome, the facility manager’s assistant I roped into helping me. He looks barely twelve years old. “The sno-cone machine is broken, one of the ponies is sick, and somebody left the banner on the floor and it got trampled,” he says, pushing up his glasses nervously.
Easy, Faith. Easy. You’ve done this before. I’d handled events bigger than this, and disasters bigger than this, too. My eyes are fixed on the wide double doors standing open across the warehouse space, where Sybil Hunter stands, backlit, imposing, the evil overlord ready to reign terror and destruction on the final challenge of what has come to be, in my mind, a sell-your-soul-to-the-devil concept: reality television. I imagine her smirk, her lust for my failure. I’m barely noticing the cameras rotating around in front of us, though part of me recognizes that my alarm is being recorded for national consumption. Tears are welling up, but I bite my lip hard, reminding myself what Sybil told me during the middle of the season, when my team lost a challenge and turned on me, the team leader. “A woman who shows weakness in this business won’t last long.”
Suck it up, Faith. This is it. Keep your eye on the prize. With a last glance at Sybil’s Hitchcockian outline, I turn to the pimply kid waiting for instructions. They come out of me like machine-gun fire: “Call the vendor and demand another sno-cone maker within forty-five minutes. Get the sick pony out of here, call a vet, call the rodeo, whatever it takes. Repair the banner—just make it look good. And for God’s sake, get Andy and Jodi Sue over here now! I need my fucking team.”
He nods and runs off. I stare at my clipboard. The list of unchecked items is three times longer than the list of checked items. I persuade a man with a mop to clean up the grease that’s trailing the popcorn machine. My eyes dart over the list, trying to prioritize at warp speed. Suddenly, Jodi Sue, eliminated contestant and disgruntled team member, is in front of me.
“I can’t find Andy,” she says in her squeaky voice, her cleavage even more evident and elevated than usual in a bright yellow wrap dress with a plunged neckline. “I finished the caramel apples, the cotton candy machine looks great with the neon, and the programs were just delivered and they’re perfect.”
“Show me,” I demand. She holds out one and I grab it. The glossy, oversized program has saturated carnival colors, balloons, clowns, and a Ferris wheel on the cover. Good, very good.
“But Andy’s still MIA,” she adds, shrugging.
“Where the hell is he? What could he possibly be doing with five stilt walkers in the middle of Manhattan?”
“I really don’t know,” she says, shrugging again. “He won’t answer his cell phone.”
“This is great. Just great. This is Shari Jacobs’s lucky day,” I mutter. I could just imagine Sybil Hunter fawning over my ex-BFF/archenemy and fellow finalist, as she pulled off her final challenge with typical high-rent perfection. I get a carnival, and she gets a baby shower for Sybil’s pregnant cousin. A fucking baby shower. I can just see the fondant baby bootie cupcakes and sterling silver rattle party favors and pink champagne. They’ll all act like best friends, trying to impress each other with how rich their husbands are.
And here I am, sweating it out, pits soaked, with swamp crotch, trying not to have an anxiety attack, and running on fumes both on this warped excuse for a television show and in my life, with just eighty-seven dollars in my bank account and a team that hates me. Everything depends on an out-of-control carnival about to go horribly wrong. I’m so damn close to winning, and I need that prize more than anything, more than anyone else on the show. I just can’t bear going back to my so-called normal life.
Now I’m sweating blood to make this event happen, and I can’t even get some paid extras on poles to show up—hell, I can’t even get my whole team to show up.
I look around: total chaos. A group of union guys tries to unroll artificial turf into the same spot where another group is trying to set up the Ferris wheel. A speaker on the sound stage wobbles and topples over with a crash, nearly crushing the woman trying to secure it to the stand. I look at Jodi Sue in despair.
“How are we going to do this?” I say. “How is this even possible?”
“Search me,” she says. “It’s your challenge. I was eliminated weeks ago, thanks to you, and I wouldn’t be here helping you if it wasn’t in my contract, because I think you’re a bitch.” She smiles sweetly.
I’m in this alone. It’s a zero-sum game.
“OK, Jodi Sue,” I say. “Why don’t you just go sit on your ass out of the way and get your cleavage ready for the stilt walkers. They’re going to have a great view.” Her mouth drops open as I spin away and set off to track down Andy. Because if I don’t find those clowns in the next fifteen minutes, I might as well not even show up at the finale. As I storm past Sybil—she stands silently, critically in the doorway with her arms crossed—I can’t help myself. “What do you think, Sybil?” I ask. “Are you entertained? Is it everything you hoped to see from me? Because you haven’t seen anything yet.”
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Skinnydipping includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Bethenny Frankel. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Faith Brightstone moves to Los Angeles determined to have it all—a successful acting career, a Malibu beach house, and a gorgeous producer boyfriend. While she has no problem finding her way in the party scene, her career and soulmate hopes are promptly dashed when her job turns out to be as a glorified servant to a sadist and her sleaze meter fails her miserably on the man front. Fast-forward five years and Faith has returned to New York and is finally finding her groove as an entrepreneur. When she lands a spot on a new reality TV show hosted by her idol—the legendary Sybil Hunter—her life is completely turned upside down. In the bizarre world of reality TV, Faith’s loud mouth makes her both an instant star in front of the camera and also labeled a troublemaker by Sybil. When the show comes to a dramatic close, Faith discovers that the man of her dreams may have just walked into her life. Will she choose fame or love? Or can she have it all?
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Faith says, “All I’d ever really wanted out of life was success in my chosen career, and perfect, passionate, eternal love with a hot and preferably independently wealthy soulmate.” How do these dual objectives propel the plot of Skinnydipping? To what extent does one goal seem to take priority over the other? How would you characterize Faith’s sense of irony?
2. How does Faith’s brief stay with her estranged father impact her? How do her father’s Hollywood connections help Faith? What do you think accounts for Faith’s resourcefulness and drive?
3. On the set of Hollywood & Highland, Faith surveys the scene before her and thinks, “They were living the dream. Chic, beautiful, rich. And here I was—making photocopies and getting coffee. I had to catch up—I felt a sense of urgency, my career clock ticking.” What motivates Faith? Have you ever felt a similar feeling that your “clock” was ticking?
4. How does Faith’s on-the-spot creation of a pink lemonade mojito at a party anticipate her success as a reality television star? What does her inventiveness and knack for improvisation reveal about her as a character?
5. Consider the similarities Faith Brightsone’s character shares with Bethenny Frankel. How does “life imitate art” in Skinnydipping? How did these parallels affect your reading experience?
6. How much of Faith’s attraction to Australian producer, Vince Beck, is grounded in her desire for professional advancement? How much of her interest in him is physical? Emotional?
7. What aspects of Faith’s job as personal assistant to Carol Kameron prepare her for the competition that she faces on the reality TV show, Domestic Goddess? How are Carol’s expectations similar to those of Sibyl Hunter? Would you watch Domestic Goddess if it were on television?
8. “My heart was torn in two, but I also felt cool and calm. I’d been released—from my obsession, from this path I was one, from Los Angeles itself.” Discuss Faith’s time in Los Angeles—the friends she made, the challenges she encountered, and the lessons she learned. How did this experience shape her? Did she have to first fail in order to succeed?
9. Of the many hilarious scenes in Skinnydipping, which did you find most memorable? Why?
10. How does Faith’s move from Los Angeles to New York signal a return to her “true” identity? How does her encounter at the Fancy Food show propel her in a new direction? To what extent does Faith’s experience in show business make her a more successful small business owner?
11. What about Faith’s personality attracts the producers of Domestic Goddess? Why would a celebrity entrepreneur like Sibyl Hunter feel threatened by Faith’s charisma? Were you surprised when Sibyl’s true intentions were revealed?
12. A series of coincidences unfold when Faith accepts a spot on Domestic Goddess. Given the many unusual circumstances that could potentially disqualify Faith from the competition, why is she allowed to continue? Do you think this is a true-to-life account of what it is like to be on a reality television show? Why or why not?
13. Discuss Faith and Harris’s relationship. How does he compare to the other men in her life? What makes him different? What challenges must they overcome in order to be with one another?
14. “My future was wide open. No limits. Just space—and love.” Discuss the conclusion of the Skinnydipping. How has Faith grown as a character? Were you surprised that she and Harris turned down Roxanne Howard’s initial offer? Do you have any lingering questions?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. In Skinnydipping, Faith Brightstone makes her way from relative unknown to celebrity. Along the way, she takes a series of jobs that are far from glamorous. Can you relate to her experience in any way? What jobs have you taken in your career that lead you to unexpected places? Have you ever accepted situations that were less than ideal in order to get closer to your goal? Share and discuss your responses with your book club members.
2. Faith’s “Have Faith” brand launches her into stardom and success. Tap into your entrepreneurial side with your book club members! If you started your own company or small business, what would you call it? What would you produce or sell?
3. Host a Skinnygirl book club party for your discussion of Skinnydipping! Visit www.skinnydippingbybethenny.com for great recipes like Bethenny’s Mock-a-Mole, and pair your menu with Skinnygirl cocktails or Faith Brightstone’s Pink Lemonade Mojito. Cheers!
A Conversation with Bethenny Frankel
Skinnydipping is your debut novel. What inspired you to tell Faith Brightstone’s story? How was the experience of writing fiction different from your previous experience writing A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life?
Truthfully, I never even dreamed of writing a novel. I’m such a literal person, and I had so much about my personal journey to communicate that I initially wasn’t drawn to fiction. My publisher was the one who proposed the idea to me. It took me a few minutes to warm up to it. Then my imagination ran wild. I have found this to be the most creative, liberating process throughout my career. The book was writing itself. The reader will devour it.
Your fictional protagonist, Faith Brightstone, shares more than a few parallels with you. Was it cathartic to “write what you know”? What do you hope readers take away after reading Skinnydipping?
Everything I do is largely inspired by my experiences. I definitely know Faith Brightstone through and through. We have many parallels and many differences. I think she is a great and inspiring character.
You are a mother, a beloved television personality, and a business mogul. How did you find the time to write Skinnydipping? Is it true that you wrote it in installments on your Blackberry?
I do all of my writing on my Blackberry. I’m always on the go. I’m not that person that holes up in a room for 2 weeks to write. I have spurts of creative energy and I need to purge it immediately and later piece it together. That’s how I’ve written every book, blog, or article in my career.
As the creator of the Skinnygirl brand and a mother, how do you hope to influence your daughter’s body image and relationship with food?
I no longer have any noise about food or body image, so we don’t worry at all about Bryn. These issues begin in the home. “Diet” isn’t even in our vocabulary, and there is no emphasis in these areas at all. Skinnygirl is one word. It isn’t about being skinny any more than “apple” computers is about a fruit.
To what extent did your experience in the world of reality television influence Skinnydipping? Do you have a favorite reality show?
I don’t have a favorite reality TV show. I flip around. Unfortunately, it has become very redundant. I’m not sure how much is “reality.” Of course I have been influenced by being on reality television for more seasons than I care to admit. Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.
You’ve said that you’re not the type of person who has regrets. Can the same be said of Faith Brightstone?
Faith is at the beginning of her journey. I’m not sure that she knows yet if she regrets some of her decisions. That remains to be seen. Maybe in the next book we’ll find out if it was worth the price.
What is on your nightstand? What was the last great book you read?
Live Wire by Harlan Coben, a Chelsea Handler book, and my therapist’s book I’m Right. You’re Wrong. Now What? Basically I read whatever someone sends or gives me and what is next to me. There isn’t a method whatsoever. I’m just happy to be reading anything with my crazy schedule.
If you were planning a book club meeting for Skinnydipping, what would be on the menu? What would you serve?
Mini crab cakes, pigs in blankets with spicy mustard, caramelized onion, smoked cheese quesadillas, and lots of Skinnygirl cocktails.
Faith lives by the maxim: “Have Faith.” What is your personal motto?
“Come from a place of yes” or “go big or go home.”
Can you envision a sequel to Skinnydipping? Will readers ever find out what happens at Faith’s first family Thanksgiving with her new mother-in-law, Sibyl Matthews?
I very strongly believe that there will be a sequel. Faith is just at the beginning.