3.5 out of 5: Love or Something Like It, Deirdre Shaw’s debut novel, follows Lacey Brennan out to Los Angeles as she leaves New York and moves in with her new husband Toby, a T.V. writer. In the glitzy world of L.A., the parties are extravagant, friendships are fickle, competition for glamorous jobs in the movie and TV industry is fierce, and everyone is fueled by optimistic dreams:
Everyone who came to L.A. believed in the possibility, perhaps even the inevitability, of their own success. They would get the audition, write the script, pitch the idea that would send them shooting to the top. We had all just turned thirty. No one entertained the concept of becoming a failed artist. This was not part of the dream.Shaw has close personal experience with the complicated world of L.A., and her honest, nuanced portrayal of the city—nicely told via Lacey’s unguarded and raw voice—is far from the stereotypical view we’ve come to expect. What begins as an exciting adventure quickly turns sour when Lacey finds herself in a dead-end job with a failing marriage:
I could grow old here never having reached my dreams, not even one, without ever knowing any sense of success; I could die out here or disappear here, sink into drink and despair here, and no one would notice.Love or Something Like It reveals both the ups and the downs of this City of Dreams with wit and sensitivity. At times, this novel’s chapters read like independent short stories rather than parts of a cohesive whole. This minor complaint is easily overcome by Shaw’s accomplished writing and her clear empathy for her characters. By the end, you’ll feel like Lacey is one of your friends, and you’ll be proud of what she’s accomplished over the course of these 250 pages.