Review by Kristine_Donahue -- MY FRIEND Marilyn

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Kristine_Donahue
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Latest Review: MY FRIEND Marilyn by Christopher Lentz

Review by Kristine_Donahue -- MY FRIEND Marilyn

Post by Kristine_Donahue »

[Following is a volunteer review of "MY FRIEND Marilyn" by Christopher Lentz.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Penny Parker is larger than life, literally. She’s a big girl living in the small woman’s world of 1958 Coronado, California. Working at the local five-and-dime, Penny is content with her life, and secure in who she is, despite not being considered “normal.” All of that changes when a reporter walks in and announces she's won a contest granting her the position of Ms. Marilyn Monroe’s assistant during her time at the Hotel Del Coronado, where she’ll be shooting scenes for her newest movie, Some Like It Hot, a contest that Penny never entered.

What follows are several days of hard work, anticipation, quick thinking, and friend making. Penny knows that she’s about to step into the Hollywood world of glamour and entitlement, walking right into the life of the most beautiful woman on the planet. Surprisingly, Penny retains her sense of self, and forges a friendship with the starlet that will change the course of both their lives.

But no Hollywood story would be complete without intrigue and mystery, and MY FRIEND Marilyn delivers on that front too. The Hotel Del Coronado is haunted by a Hollywood starlet who may or may not have committed suicide. A gorgeous man and his non-verbal son enter Penny’s life, bringing their own mystery. And feelings long ignored are brought to life in both family and friend relationships.

This all sounds exciting, and for the most part it is. I was pleasantly surprised by MY FRIEND Marilyn by Christopher Lentz. I thought the book was going to be yet another expose on the mysterious woman, but I was treated to so much more. Thankfully, the book isn’t about Marilyn Monroe. For once, Ms. Monroe is a supporting character. The book is about Penny, and everything that happens to her through the course of about a week, events that change her life.

There’s a certain style to Mr. Lentz’s writing that I have not come across before. The story is apparently told though a series of flashbacks, which is nothing outstanding. What I found different was that almost every chapter begins with the words “Fade In” and a date, location, where in the course of this movie shoot they are, and whether it’s day or night. Most chapters end with “Fade Out”. It’s almost as if the format is for a script, but then the story reads like a novel. I found this format surprising, and I also think that it serves a purpose. Most of the plot takes place during a movie shoot. Penny is now a part of the Hollywood machine. Having the story written this way brings the reader right onto the movie set too. I think this was a brilliant way for Mr. Lentz to bring his readers further into his world.

While I did enjoy this style, Mr. Lentz employs a writing technique that I truly dislike. In order to build tension, when a character is about to reveal something, they are interrupted. It seems like the only time the wait staff at the Hotel Del Coronado is able to ask if you need anything is right in the middle of an important sentence. It’s the proverbial knock on the door – and sometimes it’s an actual knock on the door – that interrupts the characters from discovering or revealing something important. And at no point are the characters able to pick up from where they left off when they were interrupted. I find this technique off-putting, and if it wasn’t for Mr. Lentz’s strengths in other areas, I might have stopped reading.

What I liked most, however, are the characters. Penny is a real person, dealing with life in 1958. She is funny, sarcastic, self-deprecating, and a fiercely loyal friend. She is surrounded by people who support her, but also has her share of nay-sayers. And she didn’t have a bucolic upbringing. Mr. Lentz includes a supporting cast of both friend and foe, each with a palpable personality. I got to know these people. They are people I’d have in my life.

I give this book 3 out of 4 stars. While MY FRIEND Marilyn has a strong plot and funny, flawed, relatable characters, giving it it’s 3-star rating, it has its share of issues as well. There are scenes that are unnecessary, that serve no purpose in either furthering the plot or evolving the characters. There is an unrelated subplot involving an old movie theater that I think was too loosely tied back into the story. And at times, it seems like there’s too much happening at once, more than a single person could possibly muddle their way through, fictional or non-fictional. And there are grammatical and punctuation errors. This book was definitely edited, but certainly not by a professional editor. These issues prevented me from giving this book a 4-star rating.

I do think, however, that these flaws are easily overlooked for anyone looking for a fun beach read and a different take on a popular theme. If I had to create a formula for MY FRIEND Marilyn, it would be Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy + The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown – art history + old Hollywood.

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MY FRIEND Marilyn
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