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The Best Place to Be: A Novel in Stories

by Lesley Dormen

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403469,433 (3.5)5
"I looked out the window and was filled with contentment. I was on a train. There was no landscape, ugly or beautiful, to demand my attention . . . None of the passengers within my view were badly dressed. I had the right book with me . . . I was happily married but alone, nothing in the immediate past to regret, nothing in the immediate future to fear. In between -- the best place to be."At fifty, Grace Hanford has lived long enough to be a daughter, a stepdaughter, a girlfriend, a sister, a sister-in-law, a wife, a stepmother, and an orphan. She has fallen in and out of love -- with troublesome men, with her glamorous mother, with her wild best friend, and with New York City -- more times than she can count. Still, Grace is more comic than melancholic, and a gifted confessor. She lives life as if every day is a movie in which her role is yet to be determined -- and her audience loves her for it.InThe Best Place to Be, we follow Grace from her fatherless childhood through her years at an all-girls college to adulthood in the city and her many dating escapades (and escapes) as an urban sophisticate. Wherever she may be, Grace tries to find her place in the world with humor and the blunt surprise of truth. And always, in the background, there is Grace's mother, brother, and the man she could or might or will call husband, out of reach -- until she reaches.In the tradition of Melissa Bank'sThe Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, The Best Place to Beis at once funny, moving, and deeply provocative, a love letter to the self-determined woman that shimmers with hilarious insight and graceful wit.… (more)

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I really liked the concept of a "novel in stories," and I enjoyed the format of this book, but I found the main character Grace a bit too neurotic and hard to relate to. The non-linear structure of the book serves the author's purpose well, and these stories are interesting and readable enough, but nothing really stood out about them. ( )
  bnbooklady | Oct 21, 2008 |
Leslie Dormen used a fascinating format for “The Best Place To Be,” one I have never before seen. She calls this format, ‘a novel in stories,’ and, as you might guess, it is a cross between a novel and a series of short stories. Essentially, Dormen took different scenes from the life of her character, Grace Hanford - scenes from childhood to middle age - and put them in the order that best expressed the story she wanted to tell, instead of chronological order. It was a fascinating format, one that could be quite successful and that I think Dormen did well.

However, I unfortunately felt a bit ‘blah’ about the character, Grace. I found myself unable to relate to Grace at all. I didn’t agree with many of her priorities or decisions, but I also wasn’t able to commiserate with why she may have made them anyway. This book is more for the 40 year-old stunningly single sophisticate than the happily newly married. ( )
  DevourerOfBooks | Oct 9, 2008 |
This collection of short stories sharing one narrator was at once insightful and impenetrable. Dormen follows her narrator, Grace Hanford, through her young life and into late middle age. While the occasional baffling run-on sentence or awkward metaphor describing something by comparing it to something even more obscure serve to unnecessarily complicate the narrative, Dormen’s surprising insight into one woman’s life experience is often strikingly and universally applicable. More than once, I found myself struck by her insight and able to relate to it completely, whether she was referring to talking to her college friends in code, admitting to a constant feeling of terror that needs to be masked, or describing arriving at that place between regret of the past and fear of the future that is, indeed, "the best place to be." ( )
  yourotherleft | Oct 31, 2007 |
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"I looked out the window and was filled with contentment. I was on a train. There was no landscape, ugly or beautiful, to demand my attention . . . None of the passengers within my view were badly dressed. I had the right book with me . . . I was happily married but alone, nothing in the immediate past to regret, nothing in the immediate future to fear. In between -- the best place to be."At fifty, Grace Hanford has lived long enough to be a daughter, a stepdaughter, a girlfriend, a sister, a sister-in-law, a wife, a stepmother, and an orphan. She has fallen in and out of love -- with troublesome men, with her glamorous mother, with her wild best friend, and with New York City -- more times than she can count. Still, Grace is more comic than melancholic, and a gifted confessor. She lives life as if every day is a movie in which her role is yet to be determined -- and her audience loves her for it.InThe Best Place to Be, we follow Grace from her fatherless childhood through her years at an all-girls college to adulthood in the city and her many dating escapades (and escapes) as an urban sophisticate. Wherever she may be, Grace tries to find her place in the world with humor and the blunt surprise of truth. And always, in the background, there is Grace's mother, brother, and the man she could or might or will call husband, out of reach -- until she reaches.In the tradition of Melissa Bank'sThe Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, The Best Place to Beis at once funny, moving, and deeply provocative, a love letter to the self-determined woman that shimmers with hilarious insight and graceful wit.

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