The casual bookstore browser who happens upon Pink Slip and buys it based on the back blurb is likely to be surprised. It begins with the words, “Lisa Diodetto’s mother may be ready for her to get married but Lisa isn’t” – and goes on to imply that the book is another Bridget Jones clone. Actually, it’s nothing like that. The book is not really about a quest to embrace marriage or avoid it, nor is it a catalog of dating experiences. And although the heroine is a single professional woman, no one would confuse her with Bridget.
Lisa Diodetto is a second generation Italian American from the poorer side of New Haven, Connecticut. She has managed to put herself through college, but after a few years as an editor in a publishing firm in New York, she’s really burned out. With the help of her cousin, she finds a new job upstate as an editor for a pharmaceutical company. It’s not very glamorous, but at least she can afford a decent apartment – with no rats.
Lisa has plenty going on in her life that makes her a little neurotic. Her large extended family can be pretty overbearing, and the only relative she really relates to is her cousin Dodie. Unfortunately, no one else in the family talks to him because they can’t accept his homosexuality. Meanwhile, Lisa is trying to write the great American novel, but so far the plot revolves around nothing but sex, and the characters are thinly disguised versions of her new coworkers. Matters at her job become more complicated when her boss goes on an extended maternity leave. Lisa finds herself attracted to her new boss, Eben Strauss, and soon they are much more than just coworkers. Somehow she knows she needs to get it all together – her family life, her book, her boyfriend, and her job. Can she figure out what’s most important to her before it all falls apart?
There are many surprises and nuances to the plot of Pink Slip. It’s both funny and sad, often at the same time. Lisa’s choices often land her in very hot water, and sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh at her or cry with her. Author Ciresi has a nice way with words, and her style adds to both the humor and the pathos of the book. While this book is definitely not a traditional romance, much of it centers around Lisa’s relationship with Eben, and it does have a happy end, albeit a rather abrupt one.
The real strength of this book lies in its believable characters. Lisa seems very real, and her interactions with her family and coworkers never strike a false note. Her relationship with Eben is also very natural. He’s far from perfect, but then so is she, and at times it seems like they won’t be able to make it work. But it’s obvious that they do love each other, so the reader can’t help hoping that it will all work out.
It should be noted that this novel is not one to read if you are easily shocked or offended. The love scenes are fairly tame, but Lisa’s past includes a lot of drug use and promiscuous sex. There is also foul language aplenty – including a character whose name itself is an obscenity. And while there is not much violence to speak of in the book, there is a single very disturbing description of a Holocaust atrocity involving a pregnant woman. It was a small part of the book, but the violent picture has yet to leave my head.
If you don’t mind reading about profanity, drug use, homosexuality and promiscuous sex (although I swear, this isn’t all the book is about) and you enjoy straight fiction, this might be a book you can really appreciate. Perhaps readers who share Lisa’s background might enjoy this book even more than I did.