The Condo is a short novel about Ellen Sortell, a socialite and the adopted daughter of one of the wealthiest families in America. She lived a sheltered life, first with her family in America and then in Paris where she studied art with Peter Renol, one of France’s prestigious artists. He was a man she admired and fell in love with but never married. After the death of her parents, she moved to the Chesterfield Towers in Winter Haven, Florida. Ellen was fifty-three. It was here that she found loving friendships and people who accepted her just as she was. She felt loved and safe. But her peaceful existence came to a startling end when her friends became entangled in a frightening lawsuit that ultimately tore the condo apart.
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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite Ellen Sortell, a fifty-something socialite, lives a comfortable, yet unremarkable life in her condo in Florida. The adopted daughter of one of the wealthiest families in America, Ellen has never wanted for anything and spent most of her adult life as an artist in France, with her love and fellow artist, Peter. When Peter dies, Ellen is suddenly left alone and thrust into a holding pattern alternating between her condo in Miami and her late grandmother’s house in New England. In The Condo by Billie Atamer, Ellen’s entire social life, it seems, revolves around her friends in the condo. When two of her best friend couples come back from a gambling cruise, at loggerheads over a million dollar jackpot both of them insist they won, Ellen is forced to choose sides between her best friends. Lawsuits and acrimony will see these couples split the condo apart as everyone is forced to take sides. Lost, lonely and desperate for love, Ellen also wonders if one day she can finally let go of Peter and start again with someone new, or will she die a lonely old woman? The Condo can be described as women’s (or chick-lit) fiction, but as a man I can assure readers it is easily enjoyed and read by either sex. The themes Atamer brings to her story are applicable to us all; friendship, love, letting go, and embracing our lives and grabbing hold of whatever happiness comes our way. In many ways, the characters of The Condo are almost caricatures themselves; the greedy couple who are not all that they seem and nowhere near as wealthy as they pretend to be; the generous, caring and professional doctor and his wife; as well as the old Chinese housekeeper and her husband who looks after the grounds of Ellen’s New England retreat. The descriptive and evocative style of Atamer’s prose, especially when talking of the small New England village, was wonderful and allowed the reader to actually feel the atmosphere and surroundings of that gorgeous fishing village. Ultimately this is a story about letting go, moving on and embracing life, and it is an enjoyable and very readable tale.