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BOOK REVIEW – Bright Lights, Big Ass

It has been a long time since I read a book “for fun.” As a museum curator, I am forever “doing research,” which I actually enjoy, but I come home from work all swimmy-headed and the last thing I feel like doing is MORE READING.

But when this book was sent to me to review, I opened the cover and blew through 385 pages in no time flat!

Jen Lancaster’s second book, Bright Lights, Big Ass, is literally laugh-out-loud funny. And I truly mean it. It is the kind of book that makes me guffaw and then re-read three paragraphs out loud to my husband.

She lives in Chicago and is a quintessential “city girl.” After she was laid off from her six figure salary when the dot-com era came crashing down around her, she found herself unemployed and eating chicken noodle soup instead of blowing wads of cash on designer clothes and indulgent coffee drinks. Her “Holy Trinity” went from Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus to Target, Trader Joe’s, and IKEA. Thankfully, she turned to writing as a new career, and we have been graced with her unique wit and humor.

The beauty of this book as a child free reading selection is that it is not “in your face child free.” Yes, Lancaster is unabashedly child free, but she doesn’t dwell on it. She treats it as a natural part of her existence, the same way I do.

In one scene early in the book, Lancaster’s husband Fletch is trying to get some work done and she is bothering him because she is not inspired to write. She writes:

“He throws his hands up and gestures at me in disgust. ‘You realize this’ – he taps the counter with his pointer finger – ‘this right here is why we aren’t having children.’ We plan to remain child-free not because we hate children but because we fear what our combined genetics may create. We think our kid would be some sort of supervillain, or at the very least have the kind of sarcastic mouth that would ensure he or she would never date and would thus live with us forever.”

In another passage, she is creating a log of her day. She writes, “2:43 p.m. – Go to Costco. Vow to never hit Costco midday again due to being only person there not holding some variety of toddler. Renew previous vow to remain child-free as do not like to carry heavy things.”

Despite the fact she is an overweight, wine-guzzling Republican, and I am trim, bleeding-heart Liberal who nurses a bottle of White Zinfandel for a month, we actually have a great deal in common!

I have a variety of wacky phobias, am a bit self-indulgent, and also annoy my husband on a regular basis because I too am “bored.” (He hasn’t opened a book in two years because he claims when he wants to read, I inevitably want to talk…) I love fancy coffee, going to the spa, and spoil my animals like crazy (as I write this, I have my electric throw plugged in solely for my cat’s enjoyment).

We are both published authors, although I have yet to land a national deal. And although I don’t drop F-bombs nearly as often as she does, I have been known to “add color” to my stories with a variety of four-letter words.

Bright Lights is Lancaster’s second memoir, and I am going to rush out and buy her first book Bitter Is the New Black soon. (Perhaps some family member will visit my Amazon Wish List and place it under the tree for me on Christmas morning!)

What I loved most about this book is Lancaster’s amazing sense of humor. She has that rare ability to make fun of herself in a way that is truly hysterical to her readers. Plus the book is littered with cute little emails, letters, lists, and daily logs that make it fun to turn the pages and incredibly fast to read.

Despite our serious differences in the political arena (I felt myself physically tense up when she mentioned she was reading Ann Coulter’s latest), I give her kudos for writing, “…as I am all about the fair and balanced, I plan to pick up Al Franken’s newest soon, because I honestly believe the truth is somewhere in the middle of all the polarizing viewpoints.”

Lancaster is anything but “PC,” and the faint-hearted may be offended by some of her comments. But even still, you’ll be nearly wetting your pants with guilty laughter!

In a single word, this book was magnificent!



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