Saturday, March 20, 2010

This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

Book Details
This One Is Mine by Maria Semple
Paperback, 320 pages
2010, Back Bay Books
ISBN: 031603133X

Violet Parry is not Anna Karenina. Witty, affectionate, and fearsomely resourceful when she wants to be, she's a modern woman who has traded a great job for a picture-perfect Los Angeles life with her rock-and-roll-manager husband, David, and their darling daughter. She can speak French, quote Sondheim and whip up dinner from the vegetables in her garden. She has everything under control—except her own happiness. Driving the hills of Los Angeles, her sense of isolation grows with every curve. She has a chance encounter with Teddy Reyes, a roguish small-time bass player with a highly-evolved sexuality. He shows an interest. That's all it takes. Heedless of consequences, Violet embarks upon her monomaniacal journey towards destruction.

David’s sister Sally, in great shape but pushing forty, is on a mission of her own to attain exactly that status and security which Violet is so quick to abandon. Nothing can stop her—as is discovered by the unfortunate bystanders in her path, and by Jeremy, the sportswriter-savant she's desperate to marry before he achieves the television celebrity she knows is his destiny.

Consumed with recklessness, Violet and Sally overlook the possibility that David and Jeremy may deal some surprises of their own.

Reading This One Is Mine was an unexpected pleasure. The book tackles some painfully messy situations that come up in family relationships with a light humor that keeps the book from becoming depressing. Every character is unhappy. Each is desperate to find one thing they believe will cure all of their problems.

Violet finds herself obsessively infatuated with Teddy, a recovering drug addict. He's clearly not good for her and she's willing to throw her family and all of her money away to be with him. This was the one aspect of the book I didn't find realistic. Not that a woman would give everything up in an unhappy relationship to get the affection she craves, but that she would chose someone so very unattractive. He's missing a tooth and kind of dirty. It can be thrilling to be involved with someone from "the other side of the tracks," but Teddy is more disgusting than edgy.

Every other aspect of this novel felt authentic, from Violet's unhappiness in her marriage, to David's longing for the woman she used to be, to Sally's desperation to be married. Each of the characters deal with heart-breaking emotional situations that make you see past their flaws and eventually root for them.

Maria Semple shows the ugly side of relationships and does it with a highly enjoyable mix of lightheartedness and gritty reality. This One Is Mine is a fresh debut novel marking Semple as an author is keep your eye on.


Maria Semple's website


  1. Great review!

    You have an award on my blog!

  2. I just read and reviewed this book last week :) It's nice to see someone else's viewpoint when reading the same book. Your's was a good and thoughtful review IMHO.

  3. This sounds like something I'd enjoy. Handling messy situations with humor is one of my favorite approaches to writing ... and life. ;-)