After years of trying to make it as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally sells his novel to an editor at a major publishing house: none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie–or Mrs. Onassis, as she’s known in the office–has fallen in love with James’s candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. But when the book’s forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and with his partner, James finds that he can’t bring himself to finish the manuscript.
Jackie and James develop an unexpected friendship, and she pushes him to write an authentic ending, encouraging him to head home to confront the truth about his relationship with his mother. Then a long-held family secret is revealed, and he realizes his editor may have had a larger plan that goes beyond the page…
From the bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus comes a funny, poignant, and highly original novel about an author whose relationship with his very famous book editor will change him forever–both as a writer and a son.
This is a hella difficult book to review because it’s so meta, can we just say it’s lovely and made me happy and leave it at that? No?
Ok. So this is a fiction title about an author writing a semi-autobiographical novel about his relationship with his mother, all while navigating a tricky relationship with his actual mother. After his book is accepted by a publishing house, he meets his new editor: The one and only Mrs Jackie Onassis (the wife of US President Kennedy, for those like me who didn’t know…).
Rowley has written this book so well that it’s really easy to forget that this is a work of fiction, sometimes. The main character’s voice draws you in and shares his angst – objectively, he’s a bit selfish and overly dramatic about things, but you still like him and want things to work out for him.
This is an exploration of a relationship between a gay man and his mother (the fact that he’s gay is relevant but not the focus of the novel), as well as his relationships with the other people in his life. I can’t lie, I did get a bit weepy near the end!
It’s the author’s writing style and imagination that makes this book so beautiful a read, it’s a tribute to authors, editors and book lovers.