Take Cannie from GOOD IN BED, give her a best friend who could have co-starred on "Sex and the City," then transplant her from New York City to the hometown of The Stepford Wives, and you would have a pretty good facsimile of Kate Klein, Jennifer Weiner's latest heroine, in GOODNIGHT NOBODY.
Born the daughter of a famous and lusty soprano and a gentle, kind and true oboist, Kate grows up and is schooled in Manhattan. Desiring a career in publishing, her job search results in her finding not only a gig writing tabloid-ish exposes on celebs but also her strongest ally and confidante, the sassy, fashion-savvy Janie Segal. The friends become inseparable, and then roommates, and Janie watches as Kate falls for the darkly handsome Evan McKenna down the hall. Evan, betrothed to an unfaithful super model (isn't everyone in the Big Apple?), breaks Kate's heart one winter night when she all but reveals her deep love for him. She escapes embarrassment by flying to London for a visit with her mother and, on the flight home, meets Ben Borowitz, a political consultant. Evan becomes her past, Ben her future.
Fast forward a few years, and Kate is a stay-at-home mom of three, struggling with a need to be more, a desire to fit in, and clothes that are too tight. Happily married (we think), she misses Manhattan and the excitement she knew at Janie's side. Her new circle of, um, acquaintances are trim, fit, worry-free clones who drive SUVs and carry matching diaper bags. Not the most welcoming crowd of mommies, Kate is elated when Kitty Cavanaugh, the glam gang leader, invites her to lunch in her posh home. Elation is quickly replaced by shock, fear, suspicion and intrigue when Kate arrives for a midday meal and is met by the lifeless body of Kitty, face-down, knife-in-back.
As Kate becomes embroiled in the mystery of Kitty's death, it becomes clear that the secrets of the nation's favorite televised desperate housewives on Wisteria Lane are nothing compared to the goings-on in Upchurch, Connecticut. The ideal lives of Kate's mommy clique are merely façades for the true secrets that seethe below the surface. Kate uncovers Kitty's questionable past, unearths sordid details about Kitty's husband and family, and even faces truths about her own husband she never would have suspected. In doing so --- between nursery school and play dates --- Kate is revitalized. And even more so by the unexpected and problematic return of Evan.
As with all of Weiner's novels, GOODNIGHT NOBODY is witty and clever, and Weiner proves that her writing prowess extends beyond chick lit and deeply into the mystery genre. Although the ending verged on over-the-top, to Weiner's credit it was a huge surprise. The quality of this novel, however, was no surprise. Weiner is gifted and funny, and GOODNIGHT NOBODY equals her earlier well-received works.
Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on January 22, 2011