REVIEW: Desperately Seeking Susie by Patrice Wilton
Dear Ms. Wilton,
When I first read your excerpt for “Desperately Seeking Susie,” I had the idea it would be a modern Chick Lit in a more humorous vein. What it turned out to be is actually a much more serious first person exploration of Susie Levine discovering herself, finding love and dealing with life. Susie definitely has ‘issues.’ Self image, relationships – both with men and her family, job satisfaction and, as her therapist Helga intimated, anger management.
I can see that Susie still ‘sees’ herself as the deformed child she was born as rather than the cosmetically/surgically redone person most people ‘see’ when they meet her. That she feels she doesn’t fit in with her family – the born beautiful people who are successful in their jobs and who ‘have it all’ regardless of whether or not they’re truly happy. That she does long for their approval yet fears she’ll never get it so she acts out, dates losers and sabotages her jobs – Helga is right here.
Helga – hmmmmm. Should analysts be making judgments about their clients? As when they were discussing how Susie takes on causes and people or when Helga says that some people are born to be happy and some aren’t and Susie is one of the latter?
I can see Susie drifting as she attempts to discover what she wants to do with her life and get the courage to do it. I applaud that you are writing a heroine who isn’t perfect, who makes mistakes. And yet that doesn’t make it any easier to watch Susie ‘ef up her life over and over. She knows she’s making mistakes, she realizes why she’s making them but she keeps doing it. It got repetitious. See Susie get a job, see Susie screw it up, see Susie use men (Joe at the Candy Bar) to impress a man she admits she hates then watch her sleep with that loser.
She’s also sometimes very superficial – ie noticing that Candy needs a manicure even while listening to her worry about her son. However, given her family’s emphasis on outward appearances, that’s not really surprising. And self injecting botox?!?! Oh dear God. I did wonder if some of Susie’s problems with her father stem from the fact that as a plastic surgeon he changed her from what she was to what he thought was better which at the same time
subconsciously told her he thought she wasn’t ‘good enough.’
I spent the first half of the book wondering when we will see Susie finally decide to stop acting out because of her parents. Any articles on changing one’s behavior list that the first step is admitting a problem, then deciding to change then, slowly, making the change. Susie does seem to know there’s a problem but gets stuck on deciding to do something about it. Until suddenly, voila, she’s making changes left and right and growing in her art and everything’s rosy. The difference between the years she’d spent unhappy and aimless and the quick about face seemed rather fast.
And then there’re the issues that apparently Susie has never mentioned to anyone much less her therapist – the rape that ended her real estate career, the lesbian overtures from her (then very young) best friend – not that these were touched (sorry) upon when Susie asked this friend for a job as the Gorilla Gram girl. Why bring these up only to then ignore them completely?
Also, there were things like Susie accusing her father of an affair at Thanksgiving and yet he calls her to help his office staff in December and nothing is mentioned about this? WTF? You say Brett has burns on his face and superficial ones over much of his body. The facial burns are an issue and are dealt with but no mention is ever made again of any body burns despite the number of times Susie mentions his hawt body.
I did like Susie’s network of friends and the depiction of twenty-something life in Miami. Susie is sexually aware and willing to see to her needs with no angsting. Her friends are there for her as is she for them. Though I’m still not sure she’s completely worked through her need to fix the broken people in her life.
I find that this book is hard to grade. You tackle some major issues in Susie’s life and have the courage to depict her in less than flattering ways. The book ends on a happy note with Susie on the way to realizing her dream of supporting herself with her art and beginning a solid romantic relationship with Brett. And yet it was hard for me to watch Susie self-destruct so many times and keep making bad choices. I found it difficult to identify with Susie and frankly had I not committed myself to this review, I doubt I would have kept on reading. But I was still happy for her to have begun to work out her problems and gain control of her life. I think lots of readers might not have the same issues I did with the book but for myself and my own feelings, I will give it a C+.