Author: Ellen Meister
Publisher: PENQUIN / G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Rating: 4.5 stars
Provided by Publisher
Blurb: The acid-tongued Dorothy Parker is back and haunting the halls of the Algonquin with her piercing wit, audacious voice, and unexpectedly tender wisdom.
Heavenly peace? No, thank you. Dorothy Parker would rather wander the famous halls of the Algonquin Hotel, drink in hand, searching for someone, anyone, who will keep her company on this side of eternity.
After forty years she thinks she’s found the perfect candidate in Ted Shriver, a brilliant literary voice of the 1970s, silenced early in a promising career by a devastating plagiarism scandal. Now a prickly recluse, he hides away in the old hotel slowly dying of cancer, which he refuses to treat. If she can just convince him to sign the infamous guestbook of Percy Coates, Dorothy Parker might be able to persuade the jaded writer to spurn the white light with her. Ted, however, might be the only person living or dead who’s more stubborn than Parker, and he rejects her proposal outright.
When a young, ambitious TV producer, Norah Wolfe, enters the hotel in search of Ted Shriver, Parker sees another opportunity to get what she wants. Instead, she and Norah manage to uncover such startling secrets about Ted’s past that the future changes for all of them.
Review: In this delicious ode to literary days past, Ellen Meister manages to pull off both a love letter to Dorothy Parker and a bittersweet paranormal mystery sure to engage the hearts of readers everywhere. It’s hard to resist the allure of the Algonquin, along with wit and dash of Dorothy Parker, but if you do–there’s gold to be found in an original story line and characters that will delight and captivate. Norah Wolfe and Dorothy Parker’s unlikely relationship is beautifully developed, a running thread of narration throughout the book that leads to the sad but ultimately satisfying end. It would take someone who had lost so much herself to understand what Norah needs–luckily, Dorothy Parker couldn’t help but meddle.
Dorothy Parker’s ghost is haunting the Algonquin Hotel. Not ready to go into the “white lights,” the magic guest book that allows her to “live” in the Algonquin Hotel keeps her there, corporeal only when the book is open. Everyone else who signed the guest book so far has only stayed a little bit before passing on. Desperate to rope a friend into staying with her, she suddenly realizes that her friend and fellow writer Ted Shriver is in the hotel.
Ted Shriver was a real jerk. Unfaithful to all his girlfriends and wives, once unforgivably, he’d lived the last years of his life alone, refusing to clear up the accusations of plagiarism that had ended his writing career early. Now, dying from an operable brain tumor, he’s come to the Algonquin where he’s drinking his life away. Dorothy Parker’s ghost approves; but she’s got to get him to sign the damn guest book or else he won’t be granted immortality and be able to stay with her.
Before she can convince him, Ted is approached by television producer Norah Wolfe, who has enough baggage with him to sink a boat. Her erstwhile reasons? She wants to save her show that’s about to be cancelled. If they can get Ted Shriver, it will fix everything! But why would Ted, after years of silence, ever go on a television show? Norah hopes she’s got a compelling enough reason.
What starts out as the background to a revisit with Mrs. Parker becomes a compelling read, with all the characters becoming real in my mind and the story arc bittersweet. I found myself really caring about what happened, not wanting to turn the page at certain points because I was afraid of what I’d see. I was so hopeful, so wishing for things for both Ted and Norah; and to see what played out was gorgeous, realistic, yet heartbreaking. The kitsch of reading a Dorothy Parker book was totally trumped by the bonus of a great story that had real depth and resonance. I came for the Dorothy but stayed for Norah and Ted.
In this book, Ms. Meister works magic as a storyteller, able to weave together the multiple lines of this story into a luminous whole with a beautiful message. Sharp, funny, bittersweet–this book is a must-read from start to finish.