Rescue Me

Gigi Levangie Grazer, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-684-87073-1

Screenwriter Grazer's (Stepmom) first novel is an unconvincing love story set in Los Angeles during the mid-1980s. Amanda McHenry has just graduated from UCLA and landed a dead-end job at a second-rate talk show while her boyfriend, James, a Venezuelan immigrant whose duplicity and self-absorption are reiterated tiresomely, has attended Harvard Law School, intent on being accepted as a member of the Caucasian elite. While Amanda plays mother to her infant nephew Madison and her charming, deadbeat, drug-dealing brother, Valentin, she's also making ends meet and fending off her boss's advances. James pretends to be faithful to Amanda (they've been dating since grade school), but in reality he's having sex with any girl who might help him attain his social goals. The duped Amanda surprises herself when she falls madly in love with her brother's friend Gabriel, the caring, selfless man that James has never been. Love blossoms for Amanda and Gabe as Valentin disintegrates: his girlfriend leaves him, drugs are destroying his body and he begins to lose what's left of his mind. When James returns to claim his woman, a violent debacle occurs among now-psychotic Valentin, proprietary James and hapless Amanda, resulting in a melodramatic and implausible pact that binds Amanda forever to a stifling life as James's wife, living without love in upper-class L.A. society and dreaming that, one day, Gabe will rescue her. While this plot is perfectly formulated for a romantic film, the story falters on the page because of Grazer's torturous prose: ""she cooked him a breakfast of cold cereal and milk""; ""his pill-like nefariously white teeth violating her eyeline."" Convoluted metaphors; repetitive, ungainly prose; unresolved subplots and flimsy character development make this effort an unsatisfying read. Agent, Jennifer Walsh of the Writers Shop. (June)
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