Red Dress Ink is a publishing company that was formed solely to produce the popular "chick-lit" novels that have flooded bookshelves lately. True to form, the majority of Red Dress Ink’s books are fluffy little numbers about meeting guys, partying and drinking. However, every once in a while, they release a book with a bit more substance, straining the borders of what qualifies as "chick-lit". Two such novels have been by the same author, Laura Caldwell. The first, Burning the Map, was about a young women’s trip to Greece with her friends and dealt with some heavy issues. The second, A Clean Slate, deals with many of the same issues as Caldwell’s first novel with a bit of a twist.
Kelly McGraw is a thirty-year-old woman who comes home to find that her key no longer works and someone else is living in her townhouse. As she starts to piece the situation together, she realizes that not only has she forgotten selling her house, but she has also forgotten losing her job and her boyfriend. In fact, she’s forgotten the entire last five months of her life.
With the help of her best friend Laney, Kelly realizes that she has been extremely depressed over the last five months and has barely left the house. However, now that she has a bit of amnesia, the depression is over and Kelly is eager to begin a new life doing what she has always loved — photography. Unfortunately, there’s another reason behind Kelly’s tattered memory, something that has nothing to do with her broken relationship or lack of a job. And it’s this that Kelly will end up having to deal with — if she can remember what it is.
Although A Clean Slate could have easily been made into a typical chick-lit book with amusing incidents involving Kelly’s memory loss and a fairy-tale ending, Caldwell simply does not write this way. As with Burning the Map, Caldwell writes about deep, complicated and often melancholy characters who are dealing with real (and not always fun) issues. Yes, there’s a bit about relationships and there’s some drinking and nights out on the town involved, but this is never what Caldwell’s books are really about. They’re about the main character and the challenges she goes through to make a better life for herself. And, as in her previous novel, Caldwell is not about to wrap up the ending of her book in a shiny little package of all's-well-that-ends-well. Instead, she focuses on what life is really like: a set of challenges that never ends, not even when you turn the last page of the book.