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A Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Privileges (2010), Dee is adept at meshing the complexities of marriage and family life with the paradoxes of the zeitgeist. In his sixth meticulously lathed and magnetizing novel, he riffs on the practice of crisis management, beginning with the abrupt end to the seemingly happy home of lawyer Ben, housewife Helen, and their 14-year-old adopted Chinese daughter, Sara. After Ben's scandalous self-destruction, Helen heads resolutely into Manhattan and manages to get a job at a shabby little public-relations agency. There she convinces clients desperate to repair their public image to apologize for their bad behavior and ask for forgiveness, a radical approach in a field dedicated to deception. When she tries to help movie megastar Hamilton, with whom she grew up and who is now facing the abyss, everything comes to a boil. In this cunning novel of selfishness, despair, and second chances, Dee nets the absurdities of a society geared to communicate in a thousand electronic modes while those closest to each other can barely make eye connect.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publishers Weekly
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"Something's got to happen," complains middle-aged suburbanite Ben Armstead, before destroying his marriage and career with a workplace tryst at the start of Dee's undercooked new novel (after The Privileges, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize). Newly divorced, Ben's ex-wife Helen moves to Manhattan with their adopted Chinese daughter Sara. Helen discovers that she has a gift for public relations and finds work at a PR firm, though she lacks experience and training. Before Ben can say "mea culpa," Helen is headhunted by a powerhouse firm, whose leader calls her approach to PR "the wave of the future." But when old school crush Hamilton Barth, now a troubled movie star, comes to her with a problem, she turns her PR skills to helping him, which ultimately puts Helen, Ben, and Sara in the same place again. A number of problems plague this novel: the thin Hamilton is ultimately inconsequential to the book, as is the romance between Sara and a black classmate discovering identity politics. Worse is Helen's transformation from housewife to PR genius, which happens in a blink and is given no support. "She could see he was coming around, just like they always did," she thinks while meeting with an early client. These flaws are a pity because Dee shines when unveiling the inner workings of the PR industry, which is at once ubiquitous and obscure. When the author focuses on the ways in which public opinion is routinely manipulated, he gives a tantalizing glimpse at what might have been. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.