Violet Epps is a famous film critic for America’s top weekly entertainment magazine. Her specialty—the very core of her celebrity—is her acerbic skewering of bad films. So arrogant are her reviews, that it’s difficult to believe how shy she is in real life. She avoids television appearances, and refuses to use her fame to get good seats at restaurants or other perqs.
Not everyone is so shy about using her fame. Violet had a reservation for lunch at New York’s famous Algonquin Hotel. She was going to break-up with her boyfriend, who was planning to move in that weekend. He loudly used her name to get seated and order drinks, mortifying Violet, and strengthening her resolve to end the relationship. When the moment is at hand, the Algonquin’s general manager comes to her table, and asks whether Violet will sign the restaurant’s guestbook. Violet looks through the book, and sees the first page. Right there is the signature of her idol, Dorothy Parker.
When Violet touches Mrs. Parker’s signature, she’s suddenly taken with a fit. It’s almost like Dorothy Parker’s spirit is possessing her. But that couldn’t happen, right? Violet faints. When she comes-to a few moments later, she slips the Algonquin register into her bag, and rushes from the hotel.
Back in her apartment, she opens the book again, and touches Mrs. Parker’s signature. Suddenly, Dorothy Parker is sitting there in Violet’s living room, asking for a cocktail.
Thus begins Violet’s incredible journey with Dorothy Parker. Mrs. Parker—she always insists on being called Mrs. Parker, and calling Violet Ms. Epps—serves as a teacher, a friend, a confidante, a nuisance, and a general befuddlement to Violet. Generally, Mrs. Parker occupies her own body (she can be corporeal as long as the guestbook is open). There are other times when she possesses Violet, generally when Ms. Epps needs a little backbone.
As their relationship wears on, Violet does grow stronger. With Mrs. Parker’s help, she’s able to dump her boyfriend, find a new boyfriend, improve her standing at work, and—best of all—fight for custody of her niece, Delaney.
The transformation from the shrinking Violet to the strong Ms. Epps is a striking one, and it’s one of the great joys of “Farewell, Dorothy Parker.” At the book’s core, though, is the beautifully realized friendship between the two women. Dorothy Parker was famous for her biting, frequently harsh wit, and we are privy to that. I laughed out loud at a bunch of her bon mots, and my Kindle is filled with highlighted quotes.
There are tender parts, too, where Violet helps Dorothy deal with her insecurities and her own fears. Their relationship is hardly just teacher and pupil.
By the book’s end, both Violet Epps and Dorothy Parker are redeemed, and ready to move on with their life and afterlife, respectively.
It’s been a long time since I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed a book like this. The characters are wonderful, especially author Ellen Meister’s portrayal of Dorothy Parker. I recently had the pleasure of reading the biography, “Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?” by Marion Meade, and Ms. Meister does an excellent job of capturing Mrs. Parker’s essence. It’s always dicey when an author mixes real characters into an otherwise fictional novel. “Farewell, Dorothy Parker” does this seamlessly.
This is one of those novels that ended long before I was ready for it to end. However, it wraps-up at the right time, and on the right note.
All in all, “Farewell, Dorothy Parker” contains periods of pure joy, interspersed with serious patches. In short, it’s the same rollercoaster ride most of our lives are.
Pity we all can’t have Mrs. Parker to guide us.
Most Highly Recommended