THE PERFECT PLAY

Louise Wener, Author . Morrow $24.95 (342p) ISBN 978-0-06-058547-1

Poker is the catalyst for change in this nervy, crackling novel about a brainy 32-year-old underachiever on a quest to find her long-lost father. Audrey Ungar's boyfriend, Joe, says she's too young for a midlife crisis. "I know, but I could be dead by the time I'm sixty, in which case I'm already well behind the game." Londoner Audrey was always great at math; in life, as in cards, she perpetually calculates the odds. And after all, she's just following her father's example: when she turns 33, she'll be the age he was when he fell under the spell of card shark Jimmy Silk Socks and abandoned his beloved wife and child. Before she can make important decisions about Joe, having children or a potential career, Audrey must swim with the same sharks. A chance encounter with Big Louie, an obsessive-compulsive giant who offers poker and life lessons ("great poker isn't about being reckless, it's about being fearless"), starts her on an offbeat adventure that ends with a high-stakes poker game in Las Vegas. Emotional but never sentimental, Wener's novel is full of wisdom about luck and skill, grace and nerve, the kindness of strangers, when to play it straight and when to go for broke. And for all its heft, it's a hoot. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/01/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
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Paperback - 342 pages - 978-0-06-058548-8
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