The Dominant Blonde

 
Does She or Doesn’t She?
by Alisa Kwitney
(Avon, $13.95, R) ISBN 0-06-051237-7
***
  Despite its cute pink cover, Does She or Doesn’t She? is not quite your standard Chick Lit. It’s more like Chick Lit on psychedelic mushrooms, with a sometimes questionable grip on reality and a darker tone than most examples of this frivolous genre. The novel’s pacing is uneven, and its plot is full of holes, but you’ll keep reading to find out what twist Alisa Kwitney will toss in next. A word of warning: if you pick this book up, don’t read the back cover blurb. Avon should be ashamed of itself for revealing a key plot detail, but don’t worry, there are other surprises in store.  

Delilah Levine has a very active fantasy life that revolves around Ford, the mysterious plumber who has been hired by her New York City co-op to fix a leaky pipe in her closet. The fantasies are much more enjoyable than Del’s real life, which includes her increasingly distant and short-tempered husband Jason, her underachieving 7 year old daughter Sadie and a stalled career as a soap opera scriptwriter. As Delilah’s fantasies become increasingly lush and erotic, her real life starts to become more intriguing as well. Jason’s odd behavior leads Del to suspect he is either having an affair or engaging in international espionage. At first she tries to convince herself that her overly active imagination is running amok, but when someone tries to kill her, it appears that truth really is stranger than fiction. And when she senses that Ford’s interest in her is more than imaginary, can Delilah handle the results?  

Without a doubt, the best reason to read Does She or Doesn’t She? is right there in italics at the beginning of each chapter. Delilah’s delightfully creative fantasies embrace all of the major romance novel genres, including vampire, suspense, futuristic and Native American. Each one is a small piece of literary genius starring Delilah and Ford in various incarnations (my favorites were disgraced aristocrat Viscount Ford Hawthorne-Blythe and spunky American heiress Delilah Lewinson). They are also hilariously funny, accurate and surprisingly erotic. I would have been happy if any of them had been expanded into a full-length novel.  

Alisa Kwitney’s third novel is unexpectedly thought-provoking as well. Delilah does finally have an opportunity to make her daydreams about Ford become reality, and she’s not always comfortable with the outcome. So should our fantasies remain our inner secrets or can they be shared with the right person? Kwitney doesn’t offer any easy answers, but the ambiguous ending hints that Delilah and Ford still have some exploring to do together.  

The book is not perfect by any means. When Delilah’s not fantasizing, the novel drags, and it’s painfully obvious that she is totally clueless about what’s going on in her marriage. For too long she passively excuses her husband’s bitchiness and lack of affection with the weak rationalization that it’s okay because they lead “parallel lives.” Also, the fantasy version of Ford is given so much attention that the real Ford remains an enigma; what makes him willing to break the rules for a frazzled Jewish wife and mother?  

The major plot spoiler on the back cover notwithstanding, there are other surprises that strengthen the last 75 pages of the novel, although I am still puzzling over a few of the plot holes. Bottom line: the novel is not completely satisfying, but those amazing fantasies and the plot’s unpredictability are major points in its favor. Given those standout attributes, I’d definitely check out Alisa Kwitney’s next book. She’s not the same old Chick Lit author, even if Avon tries to market her that way.  

--Susan Scribner


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