"Being raised in an unstable household makes you understand that the world doesn't exist to accommodate you, which, in Hannah's observation, is something a lot of people struggle to understand well into adulthood."-from The Man of My Dreams In her acclaimed debut novel, Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld created a touchstone with her pitch-perfect portrayal of adolescence. Her prose is as intensely realistic and compelling as ever in The Man of My Dreams, a disarmingly candid and sympathetic novel about the collision of a young woman's fantasies of family and love with the challenges and realities of adult life. Hannah Gavener is fourteen in the summer of 1991. In the magazines she reads, celebrities plan elaborate weddings; in Hannah's own life, her parents' marriage is crumbling. And somewhere in between these two extremes-just maybe-lie the answers to love's most bewildering questions. But over the next decade and a half, as she moves from Philadelphia to Boston to Albuquerque, Hannah finds that the questions become more rather than less complicated: At what point can you no longer blame your adult failures on your messed-up childhood Is settling for someone who's not your soul mate an act of maturity or an admission of defeat And if you move to another state for a guy who might not love you back, are you being plucky-or just pathetic None of the relationships in Hannah's life are without complications.
Sittenfeld's poignant if generic follow-up to her bestselling debut, Prep, similarly tracks a young woman's coming-of-age, but rather than navigating an elite school's nasty and brutish social system, this time the narrator contends with a dysfunctional family and her own yearnings for love. Fourteen-year-old Hannah Gavener is abruptly shipped off from Philadelphia to live with her aunt in Pittsburgh when her mercurial, vindictive father breaks up his marriage and family, which includes Hannah's older sister, Allison, and their browbeaten mother. Sweet but insecure and passive, Hannah had "been raised... not to be accommodated but to accommodate," an upbringing that hobbles all her subsequent relationships. The novel follows Hannah through her teens and late 20s (from 1991 to 2005), as she searches for romantic fulfillment, navigates friendships (e.g., with her larger-than-life cousin Fig) and alternately tries to reconcile with her father and distance herself from him. But the most influential connection Hannah makes is with her psychiatrist, Dr. Lewin, whom she begins seeing her freshman year at Tufts. Although the novel aspires to be taken seriously and Hannah is a sympathetic protagonist, she remains a textbook case of a young woman who wants "a man who will deny her. A man of her own who isn't hers." 12-city author tour. (May 16) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 15, 2006
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Excerpt from The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld
JULIA ROBERTS IS getting married. It's true: Her dress will be an eight-thousand-dollar custom-made two-piece gown from the Tyler Trafficante West Hollywood salon, and at the reception following the ceremony, she'll be able to pull off the train and the long part of the skirt to dance. The bridesmaids' dresses will be seafoam green, and their shoes (Manolo Blahnik, $425 a pair) will be dyed to match. The bridesmaids themselves will be Julia's agents (she has two), her makeup artist, and a friend who's also an actress, though no one has ever heard of her. The cake will be four-tiered, with violets and seafoam ribbons of icing.
"What I want to know is where's our invitation?" Elizabeth says. "Did it get lost in the mail?" ElizabethýHannah's auntýis standing by the bed folding laundry while Hannah sits on the floor, reading aloud from the magazine. "And who's her fiancý again?"
"Kiefer Sutherland," Hannah says. "They met on the set of Flat-liners."
"Is he cute?"
"He's okay." Actually, he is cuteýhe has blond stubble and, even better, one blue eye and one green eyeýbut Hannah is reluctant to reveal her taste; maybe it's bad.
"Let's see him," Elizabeth says, and Hannah holds up the magazine. "Ehh," Elizabeth says. "He's adequate." This makes Hannah think of Darrach. Hannah arrived in Pittsburgh a week ago, while Darrachýhe is Elizabeth's husband, Hannah's uncleýwas on the road. The evening Darrach got home, after Hannah set the table for dinner and prepared the salad, Darrach said, "You must stay with us forever, Hannah." Also that night, Darrach yelled from the second-floor bathroom, "Elizabeth, this place is a bloody disaster. Hannah will think we're barn animals." He proceeded to get on his knees and start scrubbing. Yes, the tub was grimy, but Hannah couldn't believe it. She has never seen her own father wipe a counter, change a sheet, or take out trash. And here was Darrach on the floor after he'd just returned from seventeen hours of driving. But the thing about Darrach isýhe's ugly. He's really ugly. His teeth are brownish and angled in all directions, and he has wild eyebrows, long and wiry and as wayward as his teeth, and he has a tiny ponytail. He's tall and lanky and his accent is niceýhe's from Irelandýbut still. If Elizabeth considers Kiefer Sutherland only adequate, what does she think of her own husband?
"You know what let's do?" Elizabeth says. She is holding up two socks, both white but clearly different lengths. She shrugs, seemingly to herself, then rolls the socks into a ball and tosses them toward the folded pile. "Let's have a party for Julia. Wedding cake, cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off. We'll toast to her happiness. Sparkling cider for all."