New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline struck a chord with readers, book clubs, and critics with her smash-hit essay collection, Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog. This time, Lisa teams up with Daughter Francesca to give their mother-daughter perspective on everything from blind dates to empty calories, as well as life with the feistiest octogenarian on the planet, Mother Mary, who won't part with her thirty-year-old bra. Three generations of women, triple the laughs-and the love.
Inspired by their weekly "Chick Wit" column for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Lisa and Francesca spill all their family secrets-which will sound a lot like yours. And you'll have to put this book down, just to stop laughing.
LISA ON DIETING: I'm backsliding with carbohydrates, which is the food version of ex-sex.
FRANCESCA ON CUTTING THE CORD: I thought I said, "I am going to see my cousin's new apartment," but in Mom-speak that translates to: "I am going to meet certain death in the New York City subway tunnels that are soon to be my tomb."
LISA ON MOTHER MARY: Most people have a list of Things To Do, but Mother Mary has a list of Things Not To Do. At the top is Don't Go to the Movies. Other entries include Don't Eat Outside With The Bugs and Don't Walk All Over This Cockamamie Mall.
FRANCESCA ON BEING SINGLE: I'm addicted to the wedding announcements. Worse, I find myself subtracting my age from the bride's. I thought I was a modern woman, turns out I'm a Cathy cartoon.
LISA ON AGING GRACEFULLY: Today I noticed my first gray hair. On my chin.
And so much more!
About the Author
Francesca Scottoline Serritella graduated cum laude from Harvard University, where she won the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize, the Baron Russell Briggs Fiction Prize, and the Charles Edmond Horman Prize for her creative writing. She lives in New York.
Together, Lisa and Francesca write the weekly column, "Chick Wit," for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Date of Birth:July 1, 1955
Place of Birth:Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Education:B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1976; J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1981
Read an Excerpt
MY NEST ISNT EMPTY, IT JUST HAS MORE CLOSET SPACE (Chapter 1)
A Woman At The Wheel
It all begins with Nancy Drew.
And it might end there, too.
I grew up with a girl crush on Nancy Drew, and it came back to me recently, when I was organizing my books at home. I found a few of the Nancy Drew books I had as a child, among them the blue-thatched copy of The Mystery at the Ski Jump. It's even older than I am, copyrighted in 1952.
My copyright is 1955.
As a girl, I not only read the Nancy Drew books, I memorized them. I identified with her, although we had nothing in common. She was rich, I wasn't. She was slim, I wasn't. She had a distant father and no mother. I was close to my father, and I had Mother Mary.
Who's enough mother for both of us.
Nevertheless I loved her and I still do, even in my fifties. Could there be two times in a woman's life during which she feels like Nancy Drewpre-puberty and post-menopause?
But why, for me?
For starters, Nancy's blond, and I'm blond in my mind.
She has a dog, and I have five dogs.
She drives a convertible roadster, and I drive an SUV.
Well, they're both cars.
Plus we both have a boyfriend. Hers is Ned Nickerson, and mine is George Clooney.
Finally, we're both on our own, which enables us to have all manner of adventures. And kidding aside, that's at the heart of Nancy Drew. That she's free, and in charge of her own fate.
No one is telling her what to do. No mom, dad, or hubby. No one can. She doesn't ask permission. She hops into that convertible and drives.
Nancy Drew was an ordinary girl, who was extraordinary in so many ways, and because of her, I started to write novels in which ordinary women were the heroes, because we're all extraordinary in so many ways. I'm talking teachers, lawyers, journalists, at-home moms, secretaries, painters, accountants, and nurses.
In other words, you and me.
The novels became bestsellers, thanks to you, and the trademark Scottoline heroine is Nancy Drew with a mortgage, or how I feel on a good hair day.
It seemed only natural to segue from writing about fictional extraordinary women to writing about the real extraordinary women in my life, though it's a new experience for me, in some ways. In a novel, I have 100,000 words to tell a story. In one of these vignettes, I have 700.
I can barely say hello in 700 words.
Also, in a novel, I'm writing fiction, and here, it's real life. The characters in this book are my family and friends.
Even though they're still total characters.
Inside you'll meet Daughter Francesca, who writes on her own in these pages, spilling all our family secrets, like when she tells me what to wear on a blind date.
Hint: Show the wares.
And you'll read about Mother Mary, the feistiest octogenarian on the planet, who lives with Brother Frank in Miami. And my late father, Frank. Sadly, he has passed, but he's here, too.
That's how it is when we lose our parents, or anyone we love. They're passed, but always present.
As for my pals, I'm closer than ever to best friend Franca, and as you will read, I spend Christmas Day with her and Meryl Streep. And you'll meet assistant Laura, who sets me straight on having 700 people to my house for a book club party.
You'll even get to know my array of two cats and five dogs, including a new puppy that makes me wonder if I'm becoming an animal hoarder.
By the way, I'm divorced twice, from Thing One and Thing Two, and they hardly appear at all in this book.
They're farther and farther away in my rear-view mirror. They're so small, they hardly matter anymore.
This happens when we drive, and it tells you I'm moving ahead.
There was a previous book about all of these people, but you don't have to read it to enjoy this one. You'll catch on soon enough. I bet because they remind you of the people in your own family.
And your life.
Because I think that women are basically the same, under the hood.
That's why Nancy Drew lives on.
Her life is still all of our lives, as ordinary extraordinary women. Even if we have hubbies and kids and moms and dads, at bottom, we're on our own. Each of us lives her own life, at the end of the day. Each of us has her own adventures, and each of us solves her own mysteries, of all sorts.
Parenthood is only one of the adventures in our lives.
Childbirth is another.
Love remains one of our greatest mysteries.
Marriage, a mystery I have yet to solve.
Nancy may find The Hidden Staircase, but we find The Hidden Calories. We may not solve The Case of the Missing Clock, but we've all solved The Case of the Missing Sock.
We drive along in our girl convertibles, and we never know where the road will lead us. At every fork, we choose our way, right or left, north or south, not only for us, but for the people we love, in the backseat. We steer a way through this life, for us and our families.
We have a better sense of direction than we think.
Our strength, our wit, and our hearts are more powerful than anybody could ever have imagined.
And even greater than we ever believed.
We are, all of us, women at the wheel.
Hit the gas.
MY NEST ISNT EMPTY, IT JUST HAS MORE CLOSET SPACE. Copyright 2010 by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Scottoline Serritella.
Reading Group Guide
1. Lisa is now an empty nester, if you don't count her menagerie of pets. How do you think pets help people make the transition when there is one less person in the house, whether due to death, divorce, college, or a child moving away from home? How are men and women different when it comes to dealing with an empty nest? Does your nest have to be completely empty for you to feel the effects? How is a child leaving for kindergarten, a divorced parent with shared custody, or a person who has to put their spouse in a nursing home similar? How is it different?
2. When Francesca helps Lisa get ready for a blind date there seems to be a shift in their relationship, to where the nurturing has now become a two-way street. At what point do you think this starts to happen in a parent-child relationship? Do you think this dynamic is common in most families, and how does it change as you get older? How does this help strengthen the relationship, and what are the challenges?
3. Daughter Francesca shares a very special relationship with Mother Mary. How important are grandparents in a child's life? How is the relationship between parent and child and grandparent and grandchild different? Why do you think Mother Mary was reluctant to share her recipe with Francesca? What do you think Lisa used as a bribe, or threat, to get her to give it up for this book?
4. Lisa and Francesca are each other's best friend, but they also deeply value their other friendships. However, as Lisa mentions in "GNO," making plans to go out with friends gets harder as lives get busier, and often women feel there must be a reason to go out. Why is this so? How is this different for men? Do you think men have the same need to justify time away from the family, or a need to go out and have fun? Why or why not?
5. Women tend to talk about everything, or as Francesca points out, almost everything. What makes some topics taboo, even with your closest friends? What are the things that you just won't talk about? Which things will you discuss with your mother, but not your friends and vice versa?
6. Lisa feels that in order to truly connect, you must be honest, which has led her to sharing some very personal stories about the perils of getting older. Why does hearing others talk about these subjects make us feel better about ourselves? How does Lisa's use of humor make talking about them easier to hear, and easier to discuss with others? In what ways has the stigma of getting older lifted. And in what ways has the stigma itself gotten worse?
7. Quirks are what make us all individual and interesting. Francesca outed Lisa and some of her quirks. What differentiates a quirk from being cute and unique or annoying and unbearable? What are some of your most adorable quirks, and which ones drive your friends and family crazy?
8. Lisa and Francesca's stories from Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog have been optioned for a TV series. Who do you think should play Lisa, Francesca, and Mother Mary? Who do you think Lisa, Francesca, and Mother Mary want to play them? Hint: Lisa hopes for Angelina Jolie, Mother Mary is holding out for Betty White, and Francesca is too modest to say. Who would play you and your family in the sitcom of your life?