Lois Winston’s Talk Gertie to Me is the story of Nori Stedworth, whose life seems to be falling apart. She’s been layed off from her current dot com job; she has just caught her boyfriend having sex with her best friend in his apartment; and she’s just ruined her brand new suit. Life can’t get any worse - then her mother, Connie, shows up, letting Nori know that she’s left Nori’s father. Worse yet, her mother is still trying to fix up Nori with an old childhood friend, Eugene. He is the very last person on earth she’d want to be hooked up with.
Nori grew up in a small Midwestern town called (of all things) “Ten Commandments,” a far cry from her current home in New York. Her father was and still is the mayor, and another relative was a prominent minister. Her mother is the stereotypical wife of Fifties’ sitcoms, and Nori was expected to follow suit. To take charge of her own life, she moved to Manhattan. She shocked her parents, but she eventually found her own happiness. Unfortunately, now that her mother has shown up on her doorstep, Nori's life is falling apart. She can't let her mother know, because this would only make her mother drag Nori back to Ten Commandments.
In the meantime, Nori is trying to get her life back on track. She meets a guy, Mac, in her favorite coffeehouse, and she develops a friendship with him. He in turn is smitten by her. When he accidentally takes her laptop home with him instead of his own, he discovers some journal-type writing that consists of Nori's alter ego, Gertie, and it gives Mac a great idea. The manager of a local talk radio station (WBAT), Mac sees Nori's Gertie as a potential show. Now that Nori is unemployed, she agrees to try this new venture but asks him to keep her name out of the program. She can't let this get back to her hometown; it would ruin her father's reputation and possibly his career.
Nori's mother is having her own little life-altering moments. She's met one of Nori's irritating neighbors and is actually going out with the guy. He has convinced Connie that her crafty creations could make them a fortune, especially her "bellybutton casings." With his connections, Connie's bellybutton casings become the newest fad, and her life has changed for good. Connie dreads the moment when her conservative husband hears about her business ventures, as she has now become famous among the celebrity elite.
Throughout the novel, Gertie's voice pops up as Nori's conscience then becomes the voice of the new radio program on Mac's radio station. The highlight of the novel is definitely “Gertie Gets Even,” as Nori (and Gertie) cause quite a stir on the airwaves, and the listeners who tune in.
Talk Gertie to Me is overall entertaining enough to keep a reader’s attention. The only problem is with the alternating narration. Having both Nori and Connie narrating in alternating chapters ruins the feel and flow of the book. With Gertie’s/Nori’s voice, the book reads like chick lit. Connie, being a middle-aged woman, changes the tone of the story. While both storylines are lighthearted, the age difference between the narrators is out of place in a book that reads, for the most part, like a chick lit book that should have consisted of main characters in their 20s and early 30s. If the narration were left to Nori alone, the book would read a lot better. A funnier version might have been having Gertie narrating, instead of Connie, in the alternating chapters.
Another problem lies in some of the really old-fashioned people of Ten Commandments. While people like this do exist in America, believing in these characters as they are written is difficult. They come across as too stereotypical, especially in contrast to the main characters. While these characters were probably intentionally drawn in this manner, it becomes irritating at times.
Nevertheless, Talk Gertie to Me is a good debut by an author who, at least for her first book, has a unique idea in the form of Gertie. Humor abounds in the book, and while I didn’t care for all of the characters, Nori and her friends will give the reader a lot of laughs.