3 out of 4 stars
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To be honest, I don’t usually go for historical fiction, but MY FRIEND Marilyn by Christopher Lentz caught my eye, so I decided to give it a shot. I am glad I did, because I loved it! It is the first book in the Great American Destination Series, and I will be keeping an eye out for the next one.
In 1958, Penny Parker is an overweight dime store cashier. She wins a contest to be Marilyn Monroe’s go-to girl during the eight day location shoot for Some Like it Hot at the Hotel Del Coronado, called The Del. Penny quickly becomes friends with Marilyn. She also meets a charming, handsome man, who is not what he appears to be, and his young son, who is also keeping secrets. Marilyn also begins receiving gifts from an obsessed fan. Needless to say, the eight days Penny spends with Marilyn change her life forever.
The themes in this story are friendship, body image and self-acceptance. Penny and Marilyn become close friends with Marilyn becoming Penny’s ‘fairy godmother’ and even giving her a makeover. In the end, Penny comes to regard Marilyn as the “best, best, best girlfriend” that she had always wanted, and Marilyn finds in Penny someone who sees beyond her Marilyn Monroe persona. Penny is insecure because of her weight and the way she knows that other people see her. Marilyn is also insecure due to her status as a sex symbol and as an aging star in Hollywood. They bond over their insecurities, and their friendship helps them both to realize that what they look like on the outside doesn’t matter nearly as much as what is on the inside.
The story is told in the first-person from Penny’s perspective. Penny is a fun character. She’s relatable and very funny. As I said before, she is insecure about her weight but refuses to let her weight define her. Instead, she wears mismatched earrings, colorful clothes and has a big personality. She says at one point that she chose to stand out for those reasons instead of her weight. One of the author’s notes at the beginning of the book says that he based her character on Melissa McCarthy, and I could easily imagine her as Penny. In general, Lentz did a great job of making his fictional characters feel as real as the historical ones.
The plot also had a mystery and thriller aspect to it with Marilyn’s obsessed fan and the charming man Penny meets, which added some excitement to the story. I would have liked it if this part of the plot was given a little more attention. The resolution of both plot points felt a bit sudden. However, that may have more to do with my personal taste, because I love mysteries.
There was also a supernatural twist to the story that I didn’t expect but liked. Ghosts were often mentioned. In particular, the ghost of Kate Morgan, who haunts The Del, was mentioned by many characters throughout the story. Ouija boards were also mentioned and used multiple times.
Unfortunately, I found many editing mistakes. Most of the mistakes were missing commas, which did not affect my enjoyment of the story. However, there were a couple of bigger mistakes; an out of order sentence, and a character was called the wrong name. There were also a couple of times where I could not tell who was speaking during the dialogue, which did interrupt the flow of the story as I reread it to try and figure out who was speaking.
I give this book 3 out of 4 stars, but I would have happily given it 4 stars if there hadn’t been so many editing mistakes. There is quite a bit of sexual humor, so it is only appropriate for an adult audience. I recommend it to fans of Marilyn Monroe and anyone who enjoys stories about friendship and self-acceptance with some romance.
MY FRIEND Marilyn
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