"I'm Not Julia Roberts"
(Reviewed by Guy Savage FEB 20, 2007)
"For her thesis, she plans on researching the effects of divorce on the divorced and divorcing. So far, it looks as though the effects are madness, aggression, petulance, depression, weight gain, adult acne, plastic surgery, and Jerry Springer logic. Though she too has a defunct marriage under her belt, Roxie herself feels divorced from divorce. Divorcing people have sordid public affairs with best friends and neighbors. They kidnap pets, set fire to the furniture. They embark on years-long quests to humiliate each other, alienate their own children, destroy each other’s property or credit rating."
I’m Not Julia Roberts from author Laura Ruby is a novel of manners written for the bleak realities of the 21st Century. The novel spits and crackles with wicked humour while chronicling the petty, nasty dysfunctional relationships between several middle-aged divorced urbanite couples. This often painfully funny look at the roles of ex-husbands and ex-wives, paints the stepparents involved in this mess mainly as innocent bystanders, and the book’s title refers to the film Stepmom --a film that’s “a wildly unrealistic and weepy favorite with the second wife set.” This Hollywood image of the stepmother is in direct contrast to the stepparent role portrayed unglamorously in the novel. In these pages, the stepparent is “just filling in the holes left by someone else” and it’s a difficult role that often gains little sympathy or recognition.
A great deal of the book concerns real estate agent--Lupe Klein--a woman who finds herself the improbable mother of three stepsons. Lupe--also known as Lu--had a nice quiet uncomplicated single life until she met Ward--and his ex-wife, “formidable” marketing director Beatrix. Beatrix enjoys haranguing Ward at every opportunity, and she discovers that ordering Lu to do various parental duties brings a new level of enjoyment to the harassment of her ex-husband. With Ward writing letters to his ex that begin with the salutation: “Dear Psycho” Lu realizes that “yes, she had brought baggage to her marriage, but her husband had brought the whole moving van.” Lu recalls meeting the boys for the first time and remembers that their contact seemed “pleasantly uneventful” but that opinion rapidly changes when Ward’s eldest son, Devin is dropped off at her home 5 months after she marries Ward. Over time, Devin turns “from an elf into a monosyballic troll” and as Lu sinks despairingly into the stepmother role “half days, vacation days, parent-teacher conferences, soccer practices and sick days from school” she begins to wonder “how she could have been so thoroughly duped” into marrying a divorced man with three children.
The indomitable Beatrix who keeps track of the money her ex owes her--down to the very last penny--has remarried mild mannered, hapless salesman Alan, and Alan is divorced from Roxie. Meanwhile, Roxie, who works at 24-hour crisis hotline and has been accepted into a doctoral programme in psychology, is dating Tate who’s divorced from Moira. Add to this mix, the raging hormones of resentful teenage children caught between scrapping ex-spouses, two homes, and two sets of rules.
If all this sounds a bit confusing, well there are times--especially in the beginning of the novel--when the tangled relationships between the characters are a bit difficult to unravel, but there’s a family tree and a list of the characters at the beginning of the book for reference. Expect to refer to it.
At times laugh-out-loud funny, the characters in the novel attempt to forge their way through their new relationships while still maintaining some level of relationship--usually nasty--with the ex-spouse. Naturally complications arise when there are children from these defunct relationships, and issues such as visitation and child support serve to intensify ongoing squabbles. All of these couples live in the same area, and geographical proximity is used for purposes of harassment, convenient babysitting and the occasional old confidences exchanged with the ex-spouse. About one-third of the way into the book, the author includes a chapter which uses e-mail exchanges, internet postings, nasty notes, formal letters and even IM to move through the action, and it’s nice change of pace. I’m Not Julie Roberts is a light, amusing read, and if you’ve ever survived a divorce, then there’s plenty here to identity with.
- Amazon readers rating: from 14 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from I'm Not Julia Roberts at MostlyFiction.com
(back to top)
Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- I'm Not Julia Roberts (2007)
(back to top)
- Official website for the Laura Ruby
- KidsRead interview with Laura Ruby
- KidsRead review of Lily's Ghosts
(back to top)
About the Author:
Laura Ruby grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey.
She lives in Chicago with her husband and is the mother of two stepdaughters.