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BOOK REPORT

La Rue: 'Opening Belle,' 'The Nest' deserve more attention

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There are so many books published each year that unless the author is an established one (James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, etc.), it may be hard to cut through the clutter and find an audience. I found three recent books by not-so-famous authors that deserve attention.

Maureen Sherry worked on Wall Street and she uses her experiences in her novel “Opening Belle.” Sherry takes us into this breakneck-paced, testosterone-fueled world of high finance through the character of Isabelle.

Isabelle is married to Bruce, who is content to be a part-time stay-at-home dad, part-time not-exactly-sure-what-he-does-for-a-living. They have three young children, and even though Isabelle works full-time, she is still the one responsible for grocery shopping, Christmas present shopping and arranging playdates for the children. Bruce goes to the gym.

The trading floor of the company Isabelle works for is filled with men who behave appallingly toward the female traders and analysts, and heaven help the poor female assistants and administrative employees, as it's worse for them.

And when some of the women working at the firm have had enough, Isabelle has to decide whether to jeopardize her position at the firm and her family’s financial security to join with them.

Isabelle works hard and is a great analyst. She has a luncheon meeting with the CEO of her biggest client, and who shows up with him but Henry, the man who was once her fiance until she discovered just weeks before the wedding that he was dating another woman.

Sherry never signed a nondisclosure form when she left her job on Wall Street, so “Opening Belle” is filled with little tidbits and stories that you just know ring true, and I bet that the people who used to work with her recognize some of the events and characters. They are just too good to not be true.

“Opening Belle” is fast-paced read, and one that you will devour like a eating an entire bag of chips in one sitting. You’ll root for Isabelle to get everything that she deserves, and Reese Witherspoon's production company has optioned the movie rights to this one.

Another contemporary novel is Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s “The Nest,” also set in New York City. The Plumb children are all grown adults who are waiting for the day when they can get their hands on a trust fund set up by their father.

Each has different plans for the money. Jack needs the money to replace funds he spent behind his husband’s back: He mortgaged their beach cottage to keep his antiques shop from closing.

Melody is counting on the money to send her two daughters to a good college, and to keep from losing the home she has created and loved for so long. Bea wants to quit her job and finish the novel she has started.

But all their plans go up in smoke when brother Leo has a car accident with a young lady who is not his wife, and she is seriously injured. Their mother gives Leo the money to pay off the young lady, and now the siblings must convince Leo to pay them back. Easy, yes?

Well, not so easy. Leo is a selfish man, and he feels no loyalty to his siblings. The story is interesting, and the idea of what parents owe their children is one that will engender a thoughtful discussion for book clubs that choose this one.

The final book, “The Versions of Us” by Laura Barnett, takes place across the pond in England, starting in 1958. Jim Taylor runs across Eva Edelstein, who has just had an accident with her bicycle on the way to take a test at university. They fall in love and what comes next is told in three different versions.

The title of the book comes from the triptych that Jim paints, depicting three versions of a couple. I loved this story, and although you may think that keeping track of three different versions of this couple’s lives over the years would be confusing, Barnett does an amazing job of keeping it all straight in the reader’s mind.

We see what happens, or could have happened, over the years to Jim and Eva, and how one decision made changes in so many lives in each version. Fans of the books “One Day” and “Sliding Doors” will like this one, and I enjoyed it even more than both of those.

Diane La Rue is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and blogs about books at http://bookchickdi.blogspot.com. You can follow her on Twitter @bookchickdi, and she can be emailed at laruediane2000@yahoo.com.

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