Sometimes you can skip the beach and still read beach books. This book was yet another guilty pleasure I read in a few hours this weekend; the thermometer in San Francisco crossing 80 degrees seemed to give me leeway to read mindless drivel. It caught my eye as I wandered the air conditioned bookstore, seeking something else to tackle with my library books all returned, the cover showing a woman zipping up her dress, a heartbreakingly perfect symbol of the Single Girl, who lives alone and has no one to help her with that final step in dressing, the zip-up. Or conversely, it could be the unzip, since all us Single Gals are apparently swinging and hopping from bed to bed.
The premise of the book is that Julie, a 38 year old publishing executive tired of her job and her loveless prospects in man-starved NYC, has a night out with the “girls” (all separate friends of hers gathered together to show Georgia, newly divorced, a good time) and an epiphany that she wants to travel around the world and understand how it is that women manage to be single in this world that hammers the idea of partnership so unrelentingly. Julie sells the idea to her publishing house, gets a small advance, and hops off to France to interview single ladies about their experience. Naturally, she falls in love with Thomas, a married man in an open marriage, who follows her to Italy, then meets up with her in Bali and China before his wife drags him back home.
The story also follows the “girls” who of course become fast friends with Julie out of town; Serena becomes a swami and shaves her head, finds love, is cheated on, goes back to cooking for the celebrity family and witnesses true love through that family. Alice, who quit her job to date full-time, settling on marriage with Jim but pulling out last minute after they decide to elope to Iceland where they would’ve been married in the dark. Georgia, the mother of two, newly divorced and feeling her way back into the dating scene, telling off guys at Whole Foods, setting up elaborate schemes to raise her value in Sam’s eyes (bouquets of flowers and well timed phone calls from her gay neighbors). And Ruby, the depressed-over-the-death-of-her-cat woman who in the end succumbs to anti-depressants after she learns that her mom’s been taking them.
Parts of the book are tolerable; toward the end I was simply skimming, the girls all end up in Iceland together and have a ritual where they destroy their bad memories and have a clean slate for the future. There seemed to be a lot of extra fluff in the writing; sections that I would have edited out due to their not contributing anything to moving the story along or providing any useful detail.