THE HOT FLASH CLUB

Nancy Thayer, Author . Ballantine $21.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-345-46862-8

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. (Jan.)

Forecast: Despite its flaws, this title is likely to prove popular with women's book groups, at whom it's obviously aimed. Ballantine plans "author chats" with clubs and "outreach" to Web sites dedicated to women and books .

Reviewed on: 11/24/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-307-41714-5
Mass Market Paperbound - 363 pages - 978-0-345-49229-6
Hardcover - 518 pages - 978-0-375-43355-9
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-345-46916-8
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