- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
What do women want? — Sigmund Freud (all quotes from The Portable Curmudgeon by Jon Winokur)
Wife: A former sweetheart — H.L. Mencken
Women are God’s second mistake — Friedrich Nietzsche
A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle — Gloria Steinem
Calling all women: If you’re wondering what to get your male significant other for Valentine’s Day, may I suggest a delightful new novel by Molly Shapiro called “Point, Click, Love” (Ballantine Books trade paperback, 272 pages, $15.00). Yeah, I know, it’s in the so-called “chick-lit” section of the bookstore, but trust me on this, a guy can learn a lot about what makes you and other women tick from Molly Shapiro’s take on relationships and how they’ve adapted — or not — to the digital and Social Network age. “Point, Click, Love” is a lot like the HBO series “Sex and the City” — only the city is Kansas City.
We first meet Katie Rawlings, a divorced mother of two who gets along amicably with her ex-husband, Rob. It’s good for the kids, but Katie wants some bedroom action so she goes online to a dating service. Her experiences alone would make a good book, but wait, there’s more, namely:
# Katie’s friend Annie Sax, who’s had it up to here with relationships: She just wants to get the right kind of male sperm to have a child. What could go wrong with that? Plenty, if you’re like New York City transplant Annie and decide to stalk the potential donor and meet him in person. Annie works for Sprint-Nextel, one of the many big companies based in the Kansas City MO-KS metro area. The supposedly white-bread flyover city is home to H&R Block, Hallmark Cards, AMC Theatres, Applebee’s, giant construction firm HNTB, Russell Stover Candies and many, many more. Ernest Hemingway reported for the Kansas City Star before he became a famous novelist and Walt Disney worked there from 1911 to 1923, when he moved to Los Angeles.
# Maxine Walters, a friend of Katie and Annie, an established artist who everybody thinks is in a happy relationship with her physician husband Jake. Little do they know all is not happy in Maxine-Jake Land. Maxine is also a celebrity gossip junkie, the kind of people People magazine was made for. She’s concerned about Jake’s text messages to his lovely blonde colleague Dr. Deirdre. Jake says it’s all about X-Rays, but Maxine isn’t convinced.
# Claudia Spinelli, a friend of Katie, Annie, and Maxine, a high-powered public relations executive whose husband Steve is out of work. He sends out resumes but nothing resembling a job is on the horizon for this stay-at-home dad who’s consumed with friending people on Facebook. Claudia suspects Margaret Gooding, one of Steve’s friends, may be more than that, so Claudia’s roving eye lights on Fred, a handsome support employee at the firm and soon they’re doing lunch and much more.
I talked to Molly Shapiro on the phone and found out that she’s 44, has been divorced since she was 38 and has two kids, like Katie. (When you’re a reporter, you learn sneaky ways to ask a woman her age!). She’s a busy free-lance writer in an area where writers are in demand. Molly grew up in Kansas City, but nobody believed it when she majored in semiotics at Brown University in Providence, RI and earned her master’s in writing from Columbia University in New York.
“Everybody thought I was an East Coast girl, and they didn’t believe I grew up in Kansas City,” she said. A lot of East Coasters don’t know a thing about the metro area of 2 million people straddling the Missouri-Kansas state line. To many New Yorkers their world ends at the Hudson River and doesn’t resume until you reach Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The famous Saul Steinberg cover for a 1976 issue of The New Yorker is a real life Mapquest creation to many residents of the Big Apple.
How did you decide to frame your first novel around online dating and Social Networking, I asked Molly. She responded: “When my 12-year marriage came to an end when I was 38, I had to rethink what love and marriage was all about. When I was ready to find companionship again, I turned to online dating. It was a hilarious, bizarre, sometimes creepy experience.”
Like Katie’s experiences, I asked, and Molly responded that the four characters aren’t based on her friends, although many of them find similarities. “I guess I have a little of Katie in me, but I’m Molly, not Katie.”
I asked her one more question, about Jewish deli food, which she mentions in the novel, particularly a smoked fish called sable, also called black cod. Can you get a decent bagel and sable fish in Kansas City, I asked. “No, you have to go to Barney Greenglass’s deli on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side of New York — where my character Annie grew up — to get a decent sable. My mom, who lives in Kansas City, orders it and they ship it air express from New York City.”
Repeating what I said at the beginning of this review, I loved “Point, Click, Love” and think it would make a great gift book. For men, for women, for everybody! And it would be a good book club choice, too.
About the Author
Molly Shapiro is the author of Eternal City, a short story collection and winner of the Willa Cather Fiction Prize. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown and a master’s degree in creative writing from Columbia. She currently lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with her two children, Fanny and Harry. Visit her website at mollyshapiro.com or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter (@Molly_Shapiro).