The other day I received a book in the mail written by former New York Magazine columnist Amy Sohn entitled Prospect Park West(Simon & Schuster, 379 pages, $ 25.00). This is Sohn’s third novel and fourth published book (she wrote another chronicling the Sex and The City TV series a few years back),and I must frankly say it’s a highly enjoyable read.
Sohn is has sort of become Brooklyn’s response to Candace Bushnell. While the characters from the author of Sex and The Citylive around the swankier neighborhoods of Manhattan (her last being smack on Fifth Avenue), Sohn’s dwell around her own Park Slope digs dealing with having children, infidelity, star-gazing and also race issues, which are almost a subplot here as the entire novel takes place during the summer before the election of Barack Obama to the White House and right prior to the economic meltdown that changed everything we knew about New York real estate.
Among the four central characters is actress Melora Leigh, a two-time Oscar winner that reads like a cross between Brooke Shields and Nicole Kidman. Rich and affluent, she buys a mansion in the neighborhood half as a PR move and half because of the good-natured, laid-back stance of her husband, a fellow actor on the rise. As many of the celebrities in the neighborhood (Sohn names Maggie Gylenhaall and a few others), she is both admired and envied by the other residents, who appreciate the fact that their presence adds value to their properties but also make the area become sort of a tourist attraction. Another interesting character is Lizzie O’ Donnell, a former lesbian (‘hasbian,’ using language from the book) who marries an African-American musician, has a child but still has thoughts about sleeping with women.
Differently from her two previous novels, all of Sohn’s women are moms – possibly a reflection of her own recent motherhood. On her debut Run Catch Kiss, the first-person character was a fictionalized version of herself – a sex columnist for a NYC alt-weekly (at the time she wrote a column for the New York Press), while in My Old Man it was more a coming-of-age story that I still think deserves a movie version.
Prospect Park West is filled with recent pop culture references, but if you are not hip to them, it really doesn’t matter as they do not at all hurt the narrative – actually, they do spike your curiosity (as it did with me – a mention of the cult classic The Last Seduction made me reserve it at the library) to check them out. I surely recommend checking this book out – even if you are not at all interested in Brooklyn.