The Essential Charlotte
Libby Schmais
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The Essential Charlotte

Libby Schmais
St. Martin's Griffin
256 pages
September 2004
rated 3 of 5 possible stars
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Charlotte is in her early-thirties, living a quiet life alone in Queens where she works alone as a medical researcher. Her quiet workdays are spent researching on the Internet, and Charlotte has a special interest in herbal remedies. Her evenings are spent playing an interactive video game online with her boss who lives and works across the country. Charlotte leads a sensible and relatively happy, yet predictable, life.

Charlotte’s mother, Corrine, is a sculptor who lives in Soho and is as eccentric and wild as Charlotte is reserved and conservative. When Corrine drops dead suddenly, Charlotte is shocked - and her life becomes complicated after the reading of her mother’s will. Charlotte’s father, whom Corrine told Charlotte long ago was dead, is apparently alive and well. In order to receive her inheritance, Charlotte must reside in the Soho loft with her father for one year. The question becomes whether Charlotte can handle this living arrangement in order to receive her inheritance, and what her father is really like; he is a man she has never known until now.

Charlotte has the emotional support of a girlfriend, Jules, and Charlotte also stays busy with an acting class that she takes up. She meets Colin, an Irish-born, handsome yet evasive man who is trying to make it as an actor. As if living with her father and exploring a romance with Colin is not enough in Charlotte’s formerly sedate life, Charlotte “hears” her mother talking to her at different moments throughout her days. It seems that Charlotte’s mother, who was a better artist than mother during her mortal days, is now trying to dispense motherly advice to Charlotte.

The Essential Charlotte reads more like women’s fiction than chick lit as it delves a bit deeper into interpersonal relationships than most chick lit books do. Charlotte’s life changes radically, and through that process she learns who “The Essential Charlotte” really is - and she forges a cautious relationship with her father along the way. While The Essential Charlotte is not a page-turner, it was an entertaining read and it will appeal to most fans of women’s fiction and chick lit.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Shannon I. Bigham, 2005

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