Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin Review

What Nora KnewWhat Nora Knew by Linda Yellin
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Description: Molly Hallberg is a thirty-nine-year-old divorced writer living in New York City who wants her own column, a Wikipedia entry, and to never end up in her family’s Long Island upholstery business. For the past four years Molly’s been on staff for an online magazine, covering all the wacky assignments. She’s snuck vibrators through security scanners, speed-dated undercover, danced with Rockettes, and posed nude for a Soho art studio.

Fearless in everything except love, Molly is now dating a forty-four-year-old chiropractor. He’s comfortable, but safe. When Molly is assigned to write a piece about New York City romance "in the style of Nora Ephron," she flunks out big-time. She can’t recognize romance. And she can’t recognize the one man who can go one-on-one with her, the one man who gets her. But with wit, charm, whip-smart humor, and Nora Ephron’s romantic comedies, Molly learns to open her heart and suppress her cynicism in this bright, achingly funny novel.

My thoughts: Yes, it's kind of cheesy and predictable with the Nora Ephron references. Lots of Meg Ryan and all. However, as Molly points out once or twice, we may know the ending, that she'll end up with the right guy after a grand gesture, but it's the actively discovering love right in front of your eyes keeps us watching. Or reading.

It is, by far, the funnest book I've read in a long time. I read Linda Yellin's book about her last first date; when she met her husband, their courtship and marriage. I loved it. Linda Yellin is unbelievably funny and honest and, I've said this before, I want to be her best friend. Knowing Yellin's real life love story adds enjoyability to this story. Molly is a thinly veiled Yellin, although the meeting of Nick to her Nora is different. There was a first marriage that didn't work out and probably shouldn't have counted. There were a lot of first and bad dates where she may have developed some cynicism. The point is her (Molly and Linda) decision to continue with some optimism. That someday it WOULD be a happy ending.

The choosing to be optimistic even after being hurt is the point of the novel. The heart of the novel is Yellin's personality which continues to tickle me. She provides peripheral characters that she develops just enough to know them in our own lives. She provides just enough of the details of their lives to place them into our own categories. For instance, how Russell takes a nap. How he tidily removes his watch and places it on the bedside table, lines up his shoes at the foot of the bed, or folds his clothes just so and stacks them. My favorite peripheral character, by far, is Emily. She is the office mate that uses the shared space to antagonize Molly. Hilarious.

The book takes place in Manhattan. Previous books about Manhattan details have bored me. Then I went to Manhattan in October. I got it. I got the geography, the addresses (although I stayed Midtown), and the realistic understanding of the Empire State Building. In fact, I knew I'd be really, really disappointed if the ending scene went "Sleepless in Seattle" because I KNOW that the Empire State Building has a line so long that we tourists decided against it. I also knew the distance between Radio City and the Empire State Building. And the price. Another thumbs down for the elevator ride. I knew that to get any place besides Manhattan, I'd have to ride to Penn Station, transfer to Jamaica and then I'd be free to roam around the other boroughs. And that's why I loved that aspect of it.

Nora Ephron - fantastic writer and optimist in spite of her experiences.

Linda Yellin - Nora Ephron style of writing and the most likeable writing style with just enough detail to make it hilarious.

Manhattan - I got to return via the book. I didn't feel like an outsider for once.

Emily, Angela, Kristina, Dierdre and Molly - I know these people with small adjustments.

Fun, witty, enjoyable book. Loved it.


Ruty B. said...

Sometimes predictables books can be a good read :)
I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Great review

Joan said...

Kind of like the Hallmark Channel movies, you know how they end but you watch all the time, especially at Christmas.

Maryellen Pallow said...

Love this review. Convinced me to read it!