Grazer is clever and gets off some good lines. Hannah acknowledges she can be a little hard to take and says, “The men who found me attractive tended to be deaf in one ear.” Later she notes a woman across the bar with “lips for miles,” thanks to having her plastic surgeon on speed dial. “Age is just a state of blind in L.A.” I started thinking Grazer’s métier could be doing television commentary on the entertainment industry—she’d have a zinger about every cosmetic procedure, every sexual peccadillo.
Grazer, who’s in her 40s, hints at the terror behind the obsessively maintained surfaces. If you look at her photograph on her website—with her brow as smooth as a skating rink, her perfectly tousled espresso-colored hair, her dress that’s an overgrown bustier—you get the sense she knows it well. Take Hannah’s friend, Aimee, an actress as beautiful as Angelina Jolie who has spent her whole life, Miss Havisham-like, waiting for the role that will transform her from the woman in the shampoo commercial into a star. But now she’s in her 40s, and she spends her dwindling money on ever more destructive methods of trying to stay young. Los Angeles is filled with such object lessons. Grazer uses her as a comic foil, her face constantly healing from some procedure. But she missed an opportunity to flesh out a character whose break never came.
It’s too bad Grazer has made the search for romance her singular obsession as a writer. I know Hollywood’s business is fantasy, but Grazer’s happy-ending fairy tales are much less interesting than the real Hollywood she must know so well. The Hollywood where obsessive ambition, ego, and insecurity tectonically crash. Certainly Grazer has seen up close that every successful person there worries that the magic will disappear, that the audience will fall in love with someone else. Instead of showing us how desperate single women are, and how entitled that makes single men, she could have taken us inside the sometimes dirty business of creating reality shows. (She knows the territory, having appeared on some herself.)
Instead, Grazer has Hannah view her producing career as a slightly shameful way to make a living. But Gigi Levangie Grazer isn’t embarrassed about writing lightweight chick lit. No one in Hollywood, after all, is embarrassed by success.
The After Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer. Ballantine Books.