Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book Review of Amy Sohn's Prospect Park West

Welcome to the Book Blog Tour of Prospect Park West by Amy Sohn. I admit that I was very excited to review this, particularly since I live in this Brooklyn neighborhood.  There had been much written about Prospect Park West though many Park Slope residents (and those of South Slope, Prospect Heights) were disappointed at how much the author had poked fun at the local residents.

Prospect Park West: A Novel

The blurb:
Brooklyn's famed Park Slope neighborhood has it all:  majestic Prospect Park, acclaimed public schools, historic brownstones, and progressive values.  Among bohemian bourgeois breeders, claiming a stake in Park Slope is a competitive sport.

In Amy Sohn's smart, sexy, satirical peek into the bedrooms and hearts of Prospect Park West, the lives of four women come together during one long, hot Brooklyn summer.  Frustrated Oscar-winning actress Melora Leigh, eager to relieve the pressures of raising her adopted toddler, feels the seductive pull of kleptomania; Rebecca Rose, missing her formerly robust sec life, begins a dangerous flirtation with a handsome neighborhood celebrity; Lizzie O'Donnell, a former lesbian (or "hasbian"), wonders what draws her to women despite her sexy husband and adorable baby, and Karen Bryan Shapiro consumes herself with a powerful obsession -- snagging the ultimate three-bedroom apartment in a well-maintained, P.S. 321-zoned co-op building.  As the women's paths intertwine (and sometimes collide), each must struggle to keep her man, her sanity. . .and her playdates.

Amy Sohn knows the Park Slope neighborhood well and this comes through in her novel.  I can see why Brooklynites who had been looking forward to a glamorous account of the area were sorely disappointed.

Sohn describes the local haunts of Park Slope from  the "Tea Lounge" a known hangout of young mothers which she dubs the "Teat Lounge," the local Food Coop, Prospect Park, the public library, neighborhood playgrounds, restaurants, coffee shops, and stores.  Each of Sohn's four main characters seem like a caricature of a "type of resident." 

Melora Leigh is a glamorous, high strung actress working to revive her career, worried about being bypassed in favor of younger actresses.  Melora seems to fall into situations and decisions and she feels as though her life is spiraling out of control.  She relies on her publisher, her therapist and, to a lesser degree,  her husband to help her navigate the tricky fishbowl of fame.  Melora joins the Food Coop despite her reluctance to work the required hours, and against her better judgment she participates with disastrous results.  Melora makes bad decisions over and over again  -- it's hard to imagine someone so savvy and successful in the entertainment world as out of touch with reality and with such poor judgment in her daily life. Melora and her situation read like the worst celebrity news.

The two friends, Lizzie and Rebecca, are Park Slope mothers whose children play together.  Lizzie and Rebecca see themselves as younger, more fashionable, and more attractive than the other "Park Slob" folk.   The two women  enjoy poking fun at the people around them who seem to have given up on their own achievement and now  focus all their energy and hopes on their children and have become boring.   Rebecca is wealthier and has the stronger personality of the two.   Lizzie, a former lesbian,  is eager to take their friendship to the next level, and is willing to take risks getting there.

Karen is married to a lawyer and is enjoying the life of a stay at home mother.  Karen wants a second child and a co-op in the right school zone.  Karen's a "helicopter mom"  -- she hovers over her son and pushes for what she wants, with little regard for social boundaries or niceties.

The story grows more interesting as the four women's lives intersect and I kept wondering what would happen next.  I didn't find any of the women to be sympathetic characters and kept hoping that something bad would happen to each of them!  I did enjoy the descriptions of real estate, condo board requirements and the hunt for the perfect apartment, but real estate is a blood sport in New York City. 
Overall, the book was an enjoyable and interesting read.  I'll admit to being very glad to read about my neighborhood -- even if the description wasn't all that positive.

ISBN-10: 1416577653 - Paperback $15.00
Publisher: Downtown Press (May 4, 2010), 400 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Amy Sohn is the New York Times bestselling author of Run Catch Kiss, My Old Man, and Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell.  She has been a columnist at New York magazine and has also written for The Nation, Harper's Bazaar, New York Times, and Playboy.  She lives in Brooklyn.  Find out more about Amy Sohn on her website

Thank you to Sarah and Simon & Schuster for this review opportunity!

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