Dolls Behaving Badly

Cinthia Ritchie. Grand Central, $14 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-446-56813-5
Ritchie’s quirky debut concerns 38-year-old Carla Richards, whose many years of waitressing and motherhood have derailed her dreams of becoming an artist. After Carla begins making erotic dolls to supplement her income, she rediscovers her passion for painting. Lonely after her divorce, she’s incapable of opening herself up to a new relationship and still periodically sleeps with her ex-husband. Meanwhile, she’s being courted unconventionally by Francisco, an anthropologist and customer at her restaurant who shows his affection by giving her bones and letting her listen to him breathe over the phone. Carla always has plenty of girl talk between bestie Sandee—who remains angry and bitter after being ditched by her husband on their anniversary—and successful sister Laurel, who is derailed by an affair that leaves her pregnant. Thrown into the mix are Carla’s precocious eight-year-old, Jay-Jay, and his wise-beyond-her-years babysitter Stephanie, who moves in with the family to escape her trashy parents. The foibles of the world Ritchie paints are both vexing (unimaginative visitations from dead relatives) and endearing (Carla’s many entertaining debt-collection letters), and the latter win out. Despite a cutesy sheen that threatens to mire the story in syrupiness, Ritchie’s tale of female triumph makes for a fun read. Agent: Elizabeth Wales, the Wales Literary Agency. (Feb. 5)
Reviewed on: 12/10/2012
Release date: 02/05/2013
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