Lisa Perlman, I love you. Barbara Brooker, I love you, too, for dreaming up this funny-sad, crazy-wise saga of Lisa's mid-life crisis called "So Long, Princess."
Lisa, our unlikely heroine, is a klutzy 43-year-old ex-Jewish princess, who lives in San Francisco and spends most of her waking hours giving painful birth to her first novel in a darkened room while Mozart floods her Walkman earphones, blotting out a world cluttered with demanding relatives and disappointing relationships.
This is not to say that Lisa is the embodiment of innocence. She's no angel, but she's working hard on being true to her writing and being as genuine as she can be about her feelings. At least, she tries. Both commitments lead to conflict, of course, and it's impossible not to identify with this conflict--if you're a woman, that is.
Brooker has surrounded her unlikely heroine with some definitely exaggerated but nevertheless believable relatives. She's also provided Lisa with a 50-year-old lover, who's a hypercritical, perfectionist math professor whom she meets after putting an ad in the Bay Guardian.
Talk about opposites attracting.
This is some of what they say to each other early in their relationship:
" 'I like to look at you,' he said softly and smiling. 'You have a beautiful, intelligent face . . . a funny face . . . your nose is a little crooked and everything is a little off, but it's a beautiful face.'
" 'Thank you,' I said, feeling pleased and moving slightly away from him.
" 'And you're smart,' he continued in the same soft tone. 'An unusual smarts. You use words in the wrong places and you mispronounce Mozart and Tchaikovsky and you talk way too much because you're afraid of silence, but you're unusual and interesting.'
" 'Please don't analyze me. Just kiss me,' . . . surprised at how aggressive I was.
" 'Lisa . . . we're going to get involved. . . .'
"So, OK, the guy's one of those cocky types, but what was I going to do, argue we wouldn't get involved? I was popping like popcorn, dying to kiss the guy."
She's got two quirky but loyal daughters; she's got a pathetic brother; a supportive agent; a conniving publisher, and the obligatory shrink.
How Lisa struggles to stop being what people want her to be and opens her heart to who she is create the huggable substance of this touching, comic novel. You'll laugh through your tears. It's that kind of a book.