Housebreaking a Husband

The Lipstick Diaries by Lori Soard
(Five Star, $26.95, G) ISBN 1-59414-182-7
Occasionally I dream about high school. Usually my dreams are about a class I need (and forgot) to take to graduate, or a class I will fail because I have forgotten to attend. I don’t dream about the social aspects of school. Sadly, Lori Soard’s The Lipstick Diaries reminded me all too vividly how shallow high school can be. Reading this book is like being stuck in a high school social nightmare.

At age 15, three friends, Rebecca, Kate, and Sarah, decide that they will always make time each Friday to write in a shared diary. After writing, they sign each entry by kissing the page.

Fast forward 15 years. The three single women live together in New Orleans. They continue to write in the Lipstick Diaries. They don’t demonstrate any additional maturity. Then Kate receives a wedding invitation — her sister is marrying Kate’s high school boyfriend. Since Kate thinks he is a dog, she decides to return home a week before the wedding so she can do something about it. Becca and Sarah go with her. Sarah explains:

“Becca needs to know she won’t always be deserted, I need to remind myself that I don’t have to be like everyone else to be happy, and you need to forgive yourself for not saving Jennifer when she was dating Billy. It will be therapy for all three of us.”

Before the women leave, Becca learns that she is pregnant. She calls the father of the child, who is out of the country, to tell him the news. Poor phone reception interrupts the conversation, leading Becca to believe that Jared has broken up with her. Jared believes that she broke up with him. Then the call is disconnected.

The Lipstick Diaries contains several plots. There’s Becca, whose father abandoned her family when she was young. She therefore has abandonment issues that are reinforced by the phone call mishap. There’s Kate, who feels responsible for the fact that she didn’t protect her younger sister, Jen, from an abusive boyfriend. There’s Sarah, who has some problems that don’t really go anywhere; she completes the trio of friends. And there’s a stalker, because there isn’t enough going on in this book, right? Every story could use a stalker.

When looking for problems with this story, you don’t need to look any further than the characters. Put simply: they are shallow. They would not be more flat if you subjected them to 10 minutes of ironing. Becca has abandonment issues. I know this because Soard tells me — over and over and over. That’s all I know about Becca, except for the fact that she never told Kate and Sarah — her best friends and roommates — that she has been dating Jared for six months. It seems strange that she wouldn’t tell her friends about this, but whatever.

Kate is equally one-dimensional. She feels responsible for her 27-year-old sister, so she’s going to save Jen from herself. Kate embarks on a campaign to stop the wedding, and she just gets more desperate as the story continues. She knows what she knows about her sister’s fiancé, and she won’t be persuaded otherwise.

Since Jen still lives in the town where the other women grew up, they have painful encounters with people they went to high school with. After one brunch where the attendees extol the joys of marriage and the pitfalls of being single, Sarah says, “We should all three find a husband in the next week and get married before the wedding. That would show them that being single isn’t the Greek tragedy they think, but our choice.”

Huh? What this shows me — another single thirty-something woman — is that they care more about what other people think than about making their own happiness. I also think that there’s a serious non sequitur here. Getting married is going to prove that being single is their choice?

The story spirals downward from there. Jen issues a challenge: “I challenge any one of you to find the perfect man before my wedding. If you do, I won’t get married Saturday.” Becca takes it as a sign: “She fully intended to be on the prowl for the perfect father.” I was just ready to take a pain killer. These characters could easily have been transplanted to a high school setting for all the maturity they show. In fact, most high schoolers show more maturity than this.

Rarely do I read a book devoid of something I can enjoy. The Lipstick Diaries has the dubious honor of being just such a book. I want my time back.

--Alyssa Hurzeler

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