cover image Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time

Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time

Rachel Bertsche. Ballantine, $15 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-345-54322-6

Chicago author Bertsche (MWF Seeking BFF) blends elements reminiscent of Julie & Julia and The Happiness Project in this “self-improvement journey.” Finding herself suddenly unemployed, sluggish and unfulfilled (and simultaneously trying to get pregnant), Bertsche embarks on a quest to become more perfect and thus happier. Hooked on celebrity culture (which, she observes, many take pleasure in “hating on”), she decides to emulate Jennifer Aniston’s body (daily workouts and “don’t eat shit”), Sarah Jessica Parker’s fashion sense, Gwyneth Paltrow’s upscale home cooking, Tina Fey’s work habits, Julia Roberts’s serenity, Jennifer Garner’s successful marriage (the key—watching more football with her spouse), Jessica Alba’s pregnancy, and Beyoncé’s “whole package.” As Bertsche chronicles her experiment in separate chapters devoted to each celebrity, readers will alternately laugh and cringe (the author attempts a detoxifying Gwyneth “Goop” cleanse, meditates à la Roberts in Eat Pray Love). A parallel plot develops when Bertsche and her lawyer/husband pursue IVF after attempts at baby making fail due to male-infertility factor. Interspersed among her daily star-inspired routines are observations about celebrity culture, the value of role models, and whether impersonating (but not stalking) Hollywood idols is a worthy pursuit. The process not only provides Bertsche with fruitful writing fodder but also prompts readers to examine their outlook on perfection, self-acceptance, and aspiring to be one’s very best self. (June)