three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
39-Mar-Apr-2009
By: 
Maria Semple
user_rating: 
0
Award Year: 
0

A-This One Is MineMaria Semple, a former television writer and producer who collaborated on episodes of Arrested Development, Ellen, and Mad About You recently "escaped" from Los Angeles and settled in Seattle. This is her debut novel.

The Story: Violet Parry, an Emmy Award–winning television writer, gave up a lucrative career to become a full-time mother to Dot, now a toddler. Bored and depressed, she obsesses over her weight and endures constant criticism from her music-industry mogul husband David in between shopping trips and renovations to their sprawling Hollywood Hills home. Then she meets Teddy Reyes. A racist, hygiene-challenged, ex-junkie hustler who plays bass in a Rolling Stones cover band, Teddy is David’s polar opposite—and Violet is immediately enamored. Meanwhile, David’s sister Sally, a middle-aged fitness instructor, is desperate to land a rich husband and sets her sights on an antisocial sportswriter. When their paths collide, chaos ensues.
Little, Brown. 289 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 031603116X

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Semple pokes fun at the overprivileged in This One Is Mine. It’s been done again and again, of course, but Semple, a former television producer and writer, brings a fresh eye to a milieu she clearly knows well. … This One Is Mine is a delight." Diane White

Columbus Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars
"This One Is Mine, remarkably, manages to combine comedy and compassion. … Each turn of the plot brings new surprises, and the result is a novel that leaves a more lasting impression than its satirical side would suggest." Margaret Quamme

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"With Joan Didion’s eye for the bleak, Nathanael West’s ear for the desperate and her own taste for the comic, Semple has penned a scathing vision of show business in a repellent La-La Land." Mark Lindquist

Kansas City Star 3.5 of 5 Stars
"This funny-tender send-up of the City of Angels is marked by whip-smart dialogue, skillful plot twists and gimlet-eyed observations. … There are some cardboard targets here—the El Salvadoran nanny is the most conspicuous one—but the principal characters turn out to be more than their lowest common denominators." Jeffrey Ann Goudie

Hartford Courant 3 of 5 Stars
"Although the book entertains with hilarious situations and wry commentary, its characters sometimes seem too loony-cartoony. … Still, the fast pace and peppery dialogue carry us to a forgiveness-filled, if not entirely credible denouement." Carole Goldberg

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Semple’s greatest strength is the courage to stock her book with characters who are, upon first glance, largely unsympathetic and then gently peel them until they become, if not entirely likable, then at least recognizably and even endearingly human. … So it is disappointing, and surprising, that the main character, and the main thread of this keenly observed, well-written book, falls so flat." Mary McNamara

USA Today 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Every California-based stereotype is present and accounted for: Sally, the body-obsessed dancer, past her prime and still single; her sister-in-law, Violet, the pampered but unfulfilled wife of a music mogul; and David, the self-absorbed rock impresario who treats his wife as if she were his office flunky. Add in an English-mangling nanny, a spare-no-expense wedding and a Native American sweat-lodge purification ceremony. Haven’t we seen this all before?" Patty Rhule

Critical Summary

Critics had mixed reactions to Semple’s debut novel. While some appreciated the social commentary and satire, others were not impressed by far-fetched plot twists and clichéd characters. Teddy, in particular, seemed to have few redeeming qualities, which made Violet’s behavior incomprehensible. Though Semple, writing with wit and warmth, gives readers a fascinating insider’s view of Hollywood, USA Today saw too much of a sitcom in the novel. Other critics pointed out that This One Is Mine, because of its unexpectedly poignant character development and themes of compassion, understanding, and redemption, is no made-for-TV movie. With its fast-paced plot, laugh-out-loud shenanigans, and touching conclusion, this novel will charm readers who can forgive a new novelist’s few missteps.

Cited by the Critics

The Day of the Locust | Nathanael West (1939): Considered one of the best novels written about Hollywood’s early years, West’s classic dystopian novel features an artist caught up in the seedy margins of the movie industry.