Thursday, September 26, 2019

Fiction Review: Crimes Against a Book Club

Crimes Against a Book Club, a novel by Kathy Cooperman, was an unusual choice for my own book group, which usually chooses meaty, issue-driven novels or nonfiction, but we all agreed it was an entertaining and well-written novel with more depth than we expected and plenty of laughs.

Annie and Sarah are very different in some ways but have been best friends since their college days at Harvard. Tall, gorgeous Sarah went onto law school and now works 80 hours a week in a high-powered law firm, while Annie got her PhD in chemistry. She loved working as a research chemist but quit to be a stay-at-home mom to her three young children, which has left her a bit overweight and more than a little frazzled. Her life goes from stressful to crisis when she finds out that her son has autism and needs expensive therapies immediately in order to help him while his brain is still developing. Though Sarah's life looks glamorous from the outside, she is in her own kind of crisis, desperate to get pregnant but running out of options. She and her husband are now looking at IVF, but it's very expensive, and Sarah's high-stress job is not conducive to being in the best shape in which to get pregnant. Annie recently joined a book group, in an effort to meet people, in La Jolla, a suburb of San Diego (and not where Annie lives!) that is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country. She doesn't fit in with this group of women who are obsessed with their looks and their status, but they give her an idea. She and Sarah decide to launch a cosmetics business to earn the money they each need for their families. Annie will concoct a skin cream formula from cheap ingredients, and beautiful Sarah will hand-sell the cream to the wealthy ladies of La Jolla, under the guise of a private-label, exclusive brand from France, for $2000 a jar. The only problem is that Annie ends up adding a last-minute secret ingredient to the cream that makes it very popular but could also get them in a lot of trouble.

Seems like an amusing set-up, right? And it is, with plenty of humor right from the start, as Annie and Sarah set up their fake business and begin selling the women of La Jolla their expensive face cream. What surprised our group, who were mostly expecting a shallow story, was that the author provides some depth to the characters, including the seemingly superficial wealthy women. As the story moves forward, the stakes rise for Sarah, who begins to actually like some of the women she's conning, and for Annie, who is having trouble re-stocking her secret ingredient. As I mentioned, this is not our typical sort of choice for this book group, but everyone ended up enjoying it more than they expected to. It's a smart, funny, engaging story with a great sense of humor about friendship and aging.

320 pages, Lake Union Publishing

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Listen to a sample of the audio book, from the scene where Annie attends her first La Jolla book group meeting.

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  1. Replies
    1. It was! A light, funny vacation read :)

  2. I also think this sounds fun! I'm glad it ended up having more depth than you expected. It certainly sounds like there would be plenty of material there for a good book club discussion.

  3. Very nice review. I listened to this one and it was well done via audiobook. More on my usual line of reading than perhaps yours but its always good to break out every so often. Good that all the members of the club could see its finer points!

    1. I think you're right, Kathryn - and I agree it's good to try something different once in a while! It was a nice, light palate cleanser :)