Stacy Reiser is a struggling actress contending with a career that’s going nowhere slowly, a dismal love life, and a widowed mother who isn’t going to let the thousands of miles between them keep her from meddling. As much as she loves her mother in an exasperated sort of way, Stacy is glad the nosy and bossy Helen is back home in Cleveland. Meanwhile, a small, but showy part in the new Jim Carrey movie looks like it might give her career a step up. Unfortunately things are doomed to get far worse before they get better.
First, Helen decides to move to Los Angeles from Cleveland to be closer to Stacey. Then film critic Jack Rawlins pans the movie on his TV show, singling Stacey out in particular with a devastating criticism that sends her already floundering career into a tailspin. If that’s not bad enough, Helen’s discovery of a bone in a can of tuna brings her to the attention of the tuna company. Impressed with her bluntness when she comes to complain, they hire her to appear as their spokeswoman in a series of commercials.
Suddenly Helen is the talk of the town, a “Where’s the Beef”-type celebrity appearing on talk shows and attracting the attention of a suitor in the form of Hollywood mover and shaker Victor Chellis. Helen is living Stacy’s dream, while Stacy herself has suddenly turned into her mother, nagging Helen about her career, her love life, and everything else while Helen blows her off, much the way Stacy used to treat her. The situation couldn’t be more aggravating, until Stacy starts to suspect that Victor may be more dangerous than he appears and she’s the only one who can save her mother.
Lucky Stars is one of those books that isn’t common enough, a fast and funny confection that shows no signs of an author straining for effect. The humor flows easily from the breezy first-person narration, with a heroine who manages to retain her likeability throughout her madcap misadventures.
Heller drops names and offers numerous pop culture references that come naturally; unlike so many other books where the use of real people, places and TV shows only make the story seem that much more fake (and often, more annoying), they seem perfectly fitting in Heller’s more convincing present-day Hollywood and add to the story’s believability.
Perhaps appropriately, Lucky Stars is also completing lacking in substance. The story is so light the book would float away if the hardback cover weren’t holding it down. Other than its narrator heroine, and to some degree, her love interest, none of the characters have any depth. This is only really a problem with Helen, who is the focus of so much of the story yet who never seems like anything but a cartoon, regardless of which side of her is being shown, the pre-success or after. The suspense element regarding her boyfriend, and later, fiancé, is too obvious and certainly too thin considering how much of the latter part of the book is built on it.
This is still a book that flies by, carrying the reader along from one amusing incident to the next. Parts of the story have an anecdotal feel, covering Stacy’s trials as a struggling actress in a way that for the most part is humorous instead of painful. There are those books destined to stick with us, and those that are good for a couple of highly entertaining hours. For the most part, Lucky Stars is a solid example of the latter. It’s fluffy, no doubt about it, but also reliably fun.