From the book jacket: It's an otherwise ordinary Monday when Meghan Fitzmaurice's perfect life hits
a wall. A household name as the host of Rise and Shine, the country's
highest-rated morning talk show, Meghan cuts to a commercial break but not
before she mutters two forbidden words into her open mike.
In an instant, it's the end of an era, not only for Meghan, who is unaccustomed to dealing with adversity, but also for her younger sister, Bridget, a social worker in the Bronx who has always lived in Meghan's long shadow. The effect of Meghan's on-air truth telling reverberates through both their lives, affecting Meghan's son, husband, friends, and fans, as well as Bridget's perception of her sister, their complex childhood, and herself. What follows is a story about how, in very different ways, the Fitzmaurice women adapt, survive, and manage to bring the whole teeming world of New York to heel by dint of their smart mouths, quick wits, and the powerful connection between them that even the worst tragedy cannot shatter.
Comment: Most of us will be familiar with Pulitzer Prize-winner Anna Quindlen, either for her magazine columns or for her four earlier novels, including Blessings and Black and Blue, or for her nonfiction books such as A Short Guide to a Happy Life. In Rise and Shine she tries her hand at satire to explore perception versus reality and the importance of family ties.
The story is narrated by Bridget, younger sister of Meghan, the Katie Couric-like star of the top rated morning show, Rise and Shine. Bridget worships her beautiful, successful, older sister, not only for her success but because Meghan is the only family she has - their parents having been killed when Bridget was very young. Bridget's role as non-threatening acolyte and confidante suits Meghan down to the ground.
Then the the sisters' relationship is turned on its head. What is the event that changes things? A personal tragedy? An international event? No, something much more banal - an inadvertent on-screen blooper uttered by Meghan, which is enough in our media-obsessed world to cause her bosses to suspend her and for the tabloid wolves to start baying. Meghan, already emotionally unhinged by her husband's announcement that he is leaving her, escapes her collapsing house of cards for sunnier climes, leaving Bridget to pick up the pieces.
If written by a less heavy-weight author, reviewers might have been tempted to refer to Rise and Shine as "chick lit" but the closest anyone gets is to describe it as a "woman's novel". Some reviewers love it, some are muted. Most praise Quindlen's description of diverse New York life and her well developed characters, but a couple point out that her implication that the rich and poor in New York are one under the skin, sharing the same dilemmas in one big neighborhood, is a little too rose-tinted.
Strong on characterization but weaker on plot, Rise and Shine is a tale of two sisters and one city. A fun, mildly contrived, satirical New York tale, with a family drama at its heart.
This review is from the May 10, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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