Being Carrie Fisher doesn’t suck. She’s got a legacy to inspire a thousand whispers: Spawn of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Star Wars cult vamp Princess Leia, long history of drug abuse and a Hollywood pool from which to absorb herself.
Fisher has written three bestsellers, most notably “Postcards from the Edge,” the almost-biographical account of addict actress Suzanne Vale and her burnt-out showbiz Mom.
“The Best Awful,” Fisher’s new release and fourth novel, is the unofficial sequel. We meet Suzanne again approaching midlife with a speed that coked-out studio interns would admire, hosting a kitschy talk show from her living room and caring for daughter, Honey, amidst the superficial serenity of Hollywood.
Baby Honey would make three but her father, successful producer Leland Franklin, dropped a factoid that got lost in all the baby-making and car-tripping: He’s homosexual.
Now confronted with being a “fag widow,” Suzanne struggles to reclaim her tattered perceptions of self among the Hollywood elite, a circle of friends that find more excitement in TiVo than their beloved bipolar Suzanne.
In search of affirmation, sanity and hard proof that she can still bag a willing hetero, Suzanne launches a campaign to schtupp as many alpha males as possible. Yet the politics of analytics get to this self-absorbed soul and ultimately she begs for release from her neurosis.
Unfortunately, the only baggage to cut is the medication that, although it turns her into Woody Allen, keeps her from barhopping, bedhopping, pill-popping and ultimately reliving her days as a showbiz-bred beast.
Suzanne slips away from the working mom and self-deprecating everywoman persona and into a fancy for OxyContin, razor-straight men and a path of penultimate destruction.
And that’s only the first half of the book.
Suzanne eventually resurfaces with help of best friend Lucy, winds up in the loony bin and must confront, yet again, the demons that were once so harmless in the face of prescribed tablets and Pellegrino.
Fisher is a mind unlike those that churn out Chick Lit, the Jennifer Weiner’s who rhapsodize the pangs of being plus-sized or the Sophie Kinsella’s that quip about the spiritual need to shop.
Writing a heroine is always tricky, with building strength amidst the complications of being a woman. Fisher takes to the job like a pro, letting Suzanne be unapologetically messy, finding her way through imperfections and lies like a huntress, not some damsel waiting to be rescued by money or men or reaching symbols of affirmation.
The book’s humor gives it a sharp edge to complement the throaty drama inside. “The Best Awful” is a novel about figuring out that sometimes we just can’t figure “it” out – that maybe we’re not supposed to.
Fisher struts her literary stuff in this testament about navigating the politics of Tinseltown, the rules of sanity and the possibilities that arise when you value yourself.
Matt Donnelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org