From the bestselling author of Between Husbands and Friends and An Act of Love comes a wise, wonderful, and delightfully witty "coming of age" novel about four intrepid women who discover themselves as they were truly meant to be: passionate, alive, and ready to face the best years of their lives.
Meet Faye, Marilyn, Alice, and Shirley. Four women with skills, smarts, and secrets--all feeling over the hill and out of the race. But in a moment of delicious serendipity, they meet and realize they share more than raging hormones and lost dreams. Now as the Hot Flash Club, where the topics of motherhood, sex, and men are discussed with double servings of chocolate cake, they vow to help each other . . . and themselves.
Faye, the artist. A determinedly cheerful widow and connoisseur of control-top pantyhose, she's struggling with creative block and an empty, lonely house. Now she's got a tricky problem to bring to the club's table: how can they catch her perfect son-in-law cheating on her only daughter Laura?
Shirley, the healer. Though her yoga-slender body belie her years, decades of dating losers and the strain of being broke make her feel her age. Shirley has a secret dream: a wellness spa that nurtures body and soul. But first she needs to believe in herself, in her abilities, and in her friends at the club.
Marilyn, the brain. A paleontologist who has spent so many years looking at dried-up fossils, she's almost become one herself. Worried that her brilliant but nerdy son is about to marry the very wrong woman, she gets some help from the HFC, who transform her from a caterpillar to a butterfly, with amazing results.
Alice, the executive. Black and regal, she soared to the top of the corporate ladder. Now her shoes are murder on her arthritic back and the younger jackals are circling in for the kill. But as the inspiration behind the HFC, she's about to discover something extraordinary: contentment.
For Faye, Shirley, Marilyn, and Alice, the time has come to use it or lose it--be it their bodies, their brains, their spirits, and their sense of fun. Together they realize that they can have it all, perhaps for the first time in their lives. And though what sags may never rise again, feeling sexy has no expiration date-- and best of all, with a little help from her friends, a woman can always start over . . . and never, ever, give up what matters most.
It's chick lit for the AARP crowd in Thayer's spirited but not very funny 14th novel. A chance meeting at a cocktail party brings four Boston-area women in their 50s and 60s together to found the titular club, in which they confess their woes and plot to help one another. Recovering alcoholic and perennial hippie Shirley, a talented masseuse, unknots workaholic Alice, who clues Shirley on how to dress for success, craft a business plan and establish her dream spa-retreat. Brilliant and lovable, but a "dowdy academic," Marilyn botches her attempt to save Alice's high-power job but rediscovers her sexuality (after the Club revamps her wardrobe) and loses her insufferable husband, Theodore. Faye, a widow and blocked painter, solves a locked-room mystery while sleuthing on behalf of Marilyn and also discovers her inner art therapist. Thayer dutifully lays down her threads and weaves them into a busy plot. She bluntly and repeatedly tackles the physical consequences of menopause: hip spread ("a confetti of cellulite"), flabby midsections ("like having a sleeping puppy lying on a pillow in her lap, except that when she stood up, the puppy, pillow and lap remained") and hair loss (but "you can get a wig for your pubic hair.... Something called a merkin"). There are tender and funny moments, but the novel suffers from awkward expository dialogue, long stretches of backstory, and-surprising from much-published Thayer (Between Husbands and Friends; Stepping)-too many instances of telling rather than showing.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 22, 2004
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Excerpt from The Hot Flash Club by Nancy Thayer
It was while Faye was gathering donations for the community tag sale that she realized, with a shock, that any stranger going through her house would think she was obsessive, anal-retentive, or, at the very least, eccentric.
Although, if the stranger were a female around Faye's age--fifty-five--she would probably understand what could appear to others as an unhealthy mania for clothes.
Naturally, Faye's clothing hung in the large walk-in closet of her bedroom.
Also, in the guest bedroom closet.
And in the closet of her daughter's bedroom, for Laura was twenty-eight, married, and had left only a few of her favorite childhood things at home.
Faye's clothes did not hang in the attic, because when she and Jack bought the house thirty years ago, they converted the attic into a studio where Faye painted. But more of Faye's clothes were hung, folded, or bundled in plastic wardrobes in the spacious linen closet at the end of the hall.
So much clothing!
She felt appalled, and slightly guilty.
It wasn't just that Faye, like most women, changed her wardrobe for summer and winter and fall, or that, like many other women, she had casual clothes for daily life and some elegant suits for the various committees she sat on, and a few gorgeous dresses for the events she had attended with Jack, a corporate lawyer and head of his own prestigious Boston firm. It wasn't only that she had Christmas sweaters and tennis skirts and the black velvet evening cloak that had been her mother's, so how could she possibly part with it? Or that she'd kept the expensive, elegant raincoat she'd bought on a trip to London with Jack, where she'd torn the hem, stepping out of a black cab on the way home from the theater. She intended to mend it, but she hadn't yet found time to do so. In the meantime, she'd bought another raincoat or two, to serve until she mended the London one. It wasn't that during this long, gloomy spring, she'd bought, on an impulse, another raincoat, a rain slicker of cheery, cherry red.
It was that she had so many clothes for so many seasons and reasons in so many different sizes.
The size 12s were in Laura's bedroom.
The size 14s were in the guest bedroom.
The size 16s were in the linen closet.
The size 18s were in her own closet, right next to her husband's clothing. It was his clothing that had gotten her started on this spree in the first place.
One long year ago, Jack, her darling Jack, had died of a sudden heart attack, at the age of sixty-four.
In the middle of the night, Jack had sat up in bed, turned on the light, and said to Faye, "Don't forget--" then clutched his chest and fell on the floor.
Don't forget what? Faye wondered. It kept her awake at night, it made her walk right past her townhouse, it bit at her thoughts like a tack in her shoe. Don't forget I love you? Don't forget to tell Laura I love her? Don't forget to look in the secret door in the Chippendale cabinet? (She'd looked there and found nothing.)
"He was sleeping," her son-in-law Lars assured her. "He might have been dreaming. He might have been thinking something nonsensical, the ways dreams can be, like don't forget to feed the giraffe."
Now, a year after his death, her friends, and Laura, too, insisted that it really was time to part with his things. Laura and Lars had taken what they wanted. The rest, they reminded her, should not languish in her house when they could be useful to so many others. So Faye was diligently preparing to donate his clothes to the community fair. Most of them, anyway. She would keep a few items: his old robe, worn at the elbows, no good to anyone else, and so comforting to her, and the blue Brooks Brothers shirt he looked so handsome in. The rest she really would give away.
And she absolutely would give away some of her own clothing, too. At least the size 10s.
Although, Faye wondered, collapsing on the carpet and leaning against the bedpost--because her bedroom chairs and the bed were covered with clothing she'd sorted through--would giving away the size 10s be admitting she'd never be that size again? Would it be like giving up?
All her life, her weight had gone up and down more than the scales of a Tchaikovsky concerto.
Well, more up than down.
Faye loved to eat and never lost weight without fierce determination and control. Usually she weighed the most in early January, after the ounces and inches from the feasts and celebrations of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's had accumulated, like a confetti of cellulite, onto her hips. She weighed the least in the summer, when the combination of dread of appearing in public in a bathing suit, and anticipation of light, floaty summer dresses, had driven her to diet down a size or two.