Booklist Reviews

At the start, this feels like a stylishly sexy, midlife-upheaval novel featuring upscale New Yorkers––a spa treatment for the mind. Not so fast. This is mordant and sly Christensen, author of the PEN/Faulkner Award–winning The Great Man (2007). And, sure enough, her new novel metamorphoses into a scouring tale of psychological paradox. Josie, a 45-year-old therapist, is struck, as though with a god s lightning bolt, by the realization that her marriage is over. At the same time, her longtime friend, rock star Raquel, is being shredded for her affair with a much younger actor, and the worst of her tormentors is a famously vicious gossip blogger. As Christensen keenly assesses the particular damage wrought by cyber slander, Raquel flees to Mexico City, and Josie joins her there, thrilled to be piloted through the metropolis high life on a river of tequila. As Josie reawakens to life s pleasures, Raquel shuts down. What sort of shrink is Josie? She seems clueless about people s feelings. Bewitching readers with a narcotic blend of eroticism and suspense, Christensen raises unsettling questions about our inability to understand ourselves or others and marvels over our consuming fascination with ritualized confrontation, whether it s the voraciousness of the paparazzi or the ancient drama of the bullfight. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews

Women behaving badly

At the start of the fifth novel by PEN/Faulkner Award-winner Kate Christensen, successful New York therapist Josie finds herself flirting with a man who is significantly younger—and decidedly not her husband. She drinks wine, throws her head back in hysterics and, as she watches herself deftly play out the calculations of seduction, becomes increasingly convinced that something in her life must change: she must leave her passionless marriage despite fears that it will traumatize her family.

In a surprisingly comic turn of events, however, Josie’s decision barely fazes her academic husband and adopted daughter Wendy, a resentful and perpetually bored preteen who Christensen crafts with wickedly clever punch. After all, as Wendy puts it: “Parents split up. It happens to everyone.”

Josie is prepared to move out of her apartment and rebuild her life when she calls her college friend Raquel, a Los Angeles rock star who is being vilified by the press for stealing a much younger man away from his pregnant girlfriend. Raquel suggests they sneak away to Mexico City to regroup, and Josie, despite her best efforts at responsibility, can’t see a reason not to. Once there, the pair embarks on a journey of renewed friendship and sexual awakening, as well as substance abuse, paparazzi avoidance and other forms of “trouble” few 40-year-old women encounter. Josie takes up with a local artist and Raquel balances the line between self-discovery and self-destruction.

Trouble is a smart and sexy look at the way libido plays into the female midlife crisis, and many of Christensen’s observations in the novel’s first half sparkle with acerbic wit. She loses steam, however, as the women traipse through Mexico City, and readers may find themselves wishing Josie had stayed in Manhattan to hash it out with her cruelly bemused husband. Still, it’s refreshing to read about middle-aged women who are given not only agency, but also vivacity and desire.

Jillian Quint is an editor at a publishing house in New York. She lives in Brooklyn.

Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

Christensen, who wrote about passionate septuagenarians in the Pen/Faulkner Award–winning The Great Man (2007), turns her attention to wilted 40-somethings.Manhattan therapist Josie realizes her long marriage to her professor husband Anthony is over. It's all very civilized. Anthony is sad but agreeable while their precocious 11-year-old daughter Wendy, adopted as an infant from China, decides to stay in the apartment with Anthony. Despite Josie's claims that Wendy hates her, Wendy seems remarkably supportive. Meanwhile, Josie's half Mexican college friend Raquel, now a major singing star, is targeted by scandal blogs after her affair with a television hunk half her age. Hiding from the media in Mexico City, Raquel asks Josie to keep her company, and Josie, on a two-week Christmas break from her practice, agrees. Raquel, who has been through drug rehab more than once, shows Josie a good time heavy on tequila, cigarettes and spicy food, with some church and museum visits thrown in. On the plaza they meet David, a one-armed native artist raised in Chicago. Through David, Josie and Raquel join the Mexico City bohemian artist scene. Tragedy will ultimately separate the women.Christensen couples a romanticizing, tour guide approach to Mexico City with cardboard Mexican characters for an uncomfortable effect. Despite lively sex and some clever early scenes, the novel has a tepid half-baked quality. Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews

Josie wants out of her stale marriage. Her friend, rock star Raquel, needs an out to escape the press. Mexico City is the ticket. Following the 2008 Pen/Faulkner award winner The Great Man. With a national tour; reading group guide. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Reviews

Christensen follows up the award-winning The Great Man with this tale of girlfriends on a wild adventure. Manhattan psychotherapist Josie realizes that she must step out of her staid, platonic marriage. The same week Josie tells her husband that she's leaving, her famous rock musician girlfriend, Raquel, gets caught in a scandal. The two flee to Mexico, where Josie, after so many years of being a good wife and a mother to a difficult teenage daughter, really lets loose, drinking and smoking to no end. She also meets Felipe, a beguiling artist, and experiences a sexual reawakening. But it's not a perfect holiday; Raquel, a recovering drug addict, starts a steep descent into her old habits. Though Josie tries her hardest to help her oldest friend, tragedy is in the air. Christensen's sparse, clean writing style captures the scintillating Mexican night life, and one can almost taste the greasy street tacos and mescal. The compelling plot will keep readers turning pages, even as clouds of tension and despair drift ever closer. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/09.]—Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Christensen follows The Great Man with this slightly lesser work, a coming-of-middle-age novel that explores the sexual lives of three women in their 40s. Best friends since their college days, trust-funder Indrani, therapist Josie and L.A. rocker Raquel are like three very different but close sisters. After flirting with a man at a New York party, Josie realizes that she is sexually starving and decides to leave her husband, though Indrani thinks it's a terrible move. Meanwhile, on the left coast, the nearly washed-up ex-junkie Raquel becomes embroiled in a scandal when she's smeared as the other woman to a young actor with a pregnant girlfriend. Raquel hightails it to Mexico City and begs a less than-reluctant Josie to join her. From here the novel takes a predictable route as the women drink their way across the city, Raquel spirals further out of control, and Josie's inner vixen is awakened. The novel loses some of its mojo in the location change—Mexico City seems just out of focus—but the characters are marvelously realized, and when Christensen's on a roll, her wit is irresistible. (June)

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