The Daddy Clock

Just Trust Me by Judy Markey
(Mira, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-7783-2195-9
Judy Markey’s debut novel, 1998’s The Daddy Clock, was a charming and thoughtful comedy with reflections about parenting that I still recall as being accurate and clever.  Seven years later, Chicago talk show radio host Markey has finally released a follow-up, but unfortunately it ranks as the biggest disappointment of 2005.  My reaction to Just Trust Me can be summed up in two words: So What?   

The novel’s premise as stated on the back cover sounds promising.  Kate Lerner, a Chicago talk show radio host (might as well write what you know) earns a modest living but worries that she won’t have the funds to provide medical care for her 7 year old daughter, who needs surgery for her burn-ravaged skin, and college tuition for her 17 year old son.  Out of the blue she receives a letter from her first ex-husband Richard, who disappeared 15 years ago without a trace.  His short, succinct letter says three things: he is dying of cancer, he has become incredibly wealthy, and he has a business proposition for Kate that can solve her financial issues. 

  Most readers will be able to propose interesting ideas about what could happen next that are more creative and intriguing than the actual plot of this lame novel.  Kate anguishes over whether she should call Richard to learn the details of his offer.  She discusses her dilemma with her twin sister Karen and her radio co-host David.  She devises a plan, which of course falls apart, and has to concoct a last-minute one to substitute in its place.  And then she deals with the consequences of her decisions.  But all of this is done in such a mundane manner I quickly lost interest.  The novel’s events might be notable enough to tell a friend, but they’re not unique enough to warrant a book.  There’s no reason to keep reading until page 300, at which point a parental crisis suddenly arises that will strike a chord with mothers everywhere as one of our greatest fears (to reveal more would spoil one of the book’s few highlights).  By then, however, it’s too late to rescue the story.

 Markey may be a popular, experienced radio host but she still has a lot to learn as a writer.  The book’s structure is monotonously episodic; instead of slowly building, the plot plods slowly and steadily along until the late development.  Considering the author’s profession, there is surprisingly little space devoted to her job, which could have been a fascinating and humorous opportunity to showcase her talk show callers’ idiosyncrasies.  The novel’s romantic subplot is tepid as well; the new man in Kate’s life is virtually perfect, and their relationship develops without a hitch or challenge. 

  Just Trust Me avoids the dreaded one-heart rating because it does provide a few reflective moments about the justification for lies that are committed with good intentions in mind.  But that doesn’t compensate for the weak plot.  Please trust me as a long-time reviewer and give this one a pass. 

--Susan Scribner

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