Valerie Frankel has delivered yet another astute character analysis wrapped up in humor and angst, with writing that is alternately hilarious and poignant. Continuing her successful line of books about average women struggling to understand life, The Not-So-Perfect Man is a tale of three sisters with vastly different lives.
First there is Frieda, recently widowed with a young son. She owns a gallery and lives off her husbandís life insurance policy. Her marriage was a shining example of what marital partnerships should have: love, laughter, and a responsibility to each other and their child. When Greg died, she was left floundering. Her sex drive is nil, her desire to date is nonexistent. With a child in counseling and a fear of what the future will bring, why would she complicate things further by adding a strange man to the mix? Ignoring her older sisterís attempts to set her up with ďThe Perfect Man,Ē Frieda drifts through her life until a sexy young actor walks into her gallery.
Ilene is the oldest, prettiest, and most successful of the sisters. She is happily married (she thinks), is totally content with her life (she thinks), and tries desperately to help her sisters achieve the bliss she experiences daily (she thinks). Of course, life isnít as picture-perfect as Ilene thinks. She is in a major disagreement with her husband Peter. She thinks he should be thin and badgers him constantly. He thinks she is the most perfect of all women and eats to find comfort. This situation, of course, does not last, and soon all the sisters figure out that happiness is fleeting and you should hang on to it while you can.
Betty, the youngest, is an overweight, bitter, painfully shy manager of a bookstore. Her method of flirtation is to verbally beat into the ground any man she is attracted to. Not terribly effective, but makes a darn good defense mechanism. A run-in with a man interested more in remodeling her than in marriage changes Betty, mentally and physically, forever. She is the character I found myself most relating to, and I really rooted for her to triumph over her failures.
The book starts out slooooowwwwww. I canít emphasize that enough. But keep reading. The characters are at first difficult to relate to, but soon readers will get caught up in their ordinary, entertaining, and often sad lives. The Not-So-Perfect Man'sdescription tends to imply that Frieda is the true heroine, but I disagree. Friedaís is but one story, and not even the most interesting one.