Grease 2. Jaws 4. Rocky V. You can add Rita Ciresiís Remind Me Again Why I Married You to this list of ill-advised sequels. While her debut novel, 1999ís Pink Slip, was a humorous, insightful look at a young woman caught between her familyís traditional Italian-Catholic values and a hip 1980s New York lifestyle, the sequel is a dreary portrayal of two unhappy people who make each other, and thus the reader, miserable.
At the end of Pink Slip, technical writer Lisa Diodetto reconciled with her lover, Eben Strauss, who also happened to be her boss. Lisa, a former promiscuous party girl, had been both attracted and repelled by the significantly older Ebenís honorable but slightly stuffy personality. But when she found herself pregnant as a result of their reunion lovemaking, Eben promptly fired her and asked her to marry him in the same breath.
Remind Me begins five years later. Lisa is no longer working outside the home, but she is feverishly writing a novel when sheís not caring for her son. Although she loves 5-year-old Danny, she feels lonely, even when sheís with her husband. Ebenís Executive Vice President job is stressful and, despite a recent promotion, he also feels dissatisfied. Maybe the answer to the coupleís ennui is to buy a new, larger house so that Danny can have a real backyard and Lisa can throw parties for Ebenís colleagues (never mind that she canít cook). The truth, however is that their complex problems donít have any easy solutions. Lisa is afraid to tell Eben that an excerpt of her novel has been accepted by Playboy. Eben is afraid to admit that he has had erotic dreams about their beautiful real estate agent. Both are frustrated and disappointed by their unsuccessful efforts to conceive a second child. As Lisa continues to develop her novel, she wonders if her middle-aged, married hero, Simon Stern, bears a little too much resemblance to her real-life husband. As the fictional Simon struggles with issues of fidelity, will he arrive at the same answers as Eben?
The novelís 300 pages contain little action, just Lisaís and Ebenís alternating point of view as they pontificate on how miserable and lonely they both are. Eben is moderately sympathetic if a tad judgmental; heís a decent guy stuck in a no-win corporate job, and his struggles to do the right thing about issues such as ďpotty parityĒ are humorously pathetic.
Lisa, however, is annoyingly whiny from the first page of the novel to the last. Oh poor me, I have a decent husband and a precocious son, but I am so empty inside! For godís sake woman, go out and get a job, volunteer, make some friends, or do something productive instead of complaining all of the time. Her constant wisecracking was amusing in Pink Slip; here itís just grating. She also commits the unpardonable parenting offense of involving little Danny in her problems. This kid is definitely headed for the therapistís couch by the time heís an adolescent; his parents are much too self-absorbed to give him the attention he deserves.
The novelís insularity further weakens its impact. Weíre stuck in basically a 2-person story, with occasional interruptions from Danny, whose sophisticated dialogue bears little resemblance to that of any real 5-year old. Lisaís colorful family members from Pink Slip, including her mother, older sister and her gay best friend/cousin Dodie are nowhere to be found, and Lisaís Italian heritage is barely alluded to.
While Pink Slip was admittedly a bittersweet romance, the reader was hopeful at its conclusion that Lisa and Eben would somehow be able to overcome their personality differences and be happy in the long term. Remind Me Again is much more bitter than sweet; while the couple remain married, the main factor keeping them together seems to be their son. I wish Ciresi had left Lisa and Eben at the last page of Pink Slip, so I could have kept my illusions about their happiness. Remind me again why I wanted to read this book - decidedly lacking in tenderness, it was not a sequel worth waiting for.