"Girls' Poker Night: A Novel of High Stakes"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark FEB 22, 2002)
"In the beginning, my friends liked it when I wrote about them. They were flattered. Now they say it's expolitative. They say I should get some courage and write about me."
When Ruby gets to New York City, the first thing she does is recruit her old college friends to start up a poker night. As is the tradition of this get-together, it's a chance to eat, drink, smoke, "talk about books and sex and jobs and men," generally a chance to catch up with each other while incidentally playing cards. Danielle is recently divorced and is making up for all her "missed opportunities." Jenn works for a demanding and abusive boss thus she neither has the time nor the money to hang out in the right places to meet a man. Lily is at a loss when it comes to romance and doesn't get what the big deal with sex is all about. And, finally, my favorite, Skorka is a beautiful model who drinks Tequila from the bottle, doesn't speak English very well but knows how to throw a little profanity in every sentence; she's also the most direct when it comes to saying what's on her mind. While Ruby enjoys her friends, she tends to keep her mouth shut during these evenings, lest she might say something that makes her unpopular. She believes hosting the gathering is enough participation.
Though it's a nickel ante game, as time goes on, the stakes raised are more than the nickels on the table. While all of her friends seem to be willing to take risks and thus eventually get what they want in their lives, Ruby is $27 dollars down, in nickels. Ruby manages her relationships like her poker game, folding early so she doesn't have to find out if she lost. But now there is something at stake for Ruby and her girlfriends know it, even if Ruby doesn't. It turns out that her new boss, Michael, just might be Mr. Right. But can Ruby play the game out?
I love the tone and style of this novel. The novel is written in blurbs the length of a short newspaper column each with a cryptic, but appropriate, heading. Yet, it is so conversational in its tone. Listening to Ruby is like talking to my youngest sister, who also believes she's crazy, but really is just plain funny; the kind of funny that's self deprecating but insightful at the same time. I read this novel in one sitting because I was getting such a hoot out of Ruby and the descriptions of her friends, her shrink Doug, and co-workers. It would be just like my sister to decide to change her life, send off a resume and then be seriously disappointed that she didn't hear back with a job offer the next day. And like Ruby, she'd know this was crazy behavior, but it wouldn't stop her from checking the mailbox!
I laughed out loud from beginning to end reading this novel. And much of the humor is such girl humor. Like getting an eyebrow waxing while on a beauty bus to Long Island and the bus hits a pothole. Or going to a bar wearing an old bridesmaid's dress to get free drinks. The only one not dressed in a gown is Skorka. When she goes to the bar the bartender denies her a free drink because she's not in a gown. But Skorka demands the drink, like anyone would ask a model to be a bridesmaid! I thought I'd fall out of my chair with laughter. Of course when I read this passage out loud, it didn't get the same reaction out of male companion. As I say, this novel has loads of girl humor.
One of the blurbs on the dust jacket quotes Laura Zigman as saying that the novel "captures exactly what it feels like to be a single woman on the verge of falling in love." I have to agree with this statement wholeheartedly. While falling in love can be a lot of fun, it can be one of the most painful and scariest things that can happen, especially if one has never really bared her soul to herself. While this is a really humorous novel, it has an underlying serious tone and at one point we really hurt for Ruby. It rings with truth when it comes to fear of commitment and the courage to really live; the analogy to the poker game, which is handled far more subtle than I'm making it out to be, is perfect.
I highly recommend this novel for any Reading Group, not only will you have lots to talk about, you'll have a great time doing it. If the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood spawned "Ya-Ya" groups, this novel will inspire women everywhere to pull out a poker cheat sheet and get their own girls night out.
- Amazon readers rating: from 200 reviews
Read an excerpt from Girls' Poker Night at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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About the Author:
Jill A. Davis was a writer for Late Show with David Letterman, where she received five emmy nominations. She has also written several network pilots, screenplays, and short stories. Before moving to New York City, she wrote a humor column for a small metropolitan newspaper.