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Younger : Redmond Vs Star

My latest reading for the year was an interesting novel – Younger by Pamela Redmond (2019 edition). It’s interesting for two reasons. First, the story itself is intriguing and captivating. Second, and perhaps more interestingly, because it was the foundation of the cult-hit TV show of the same name. Actually, it’s rather interesting for a third reason too… the copy I had was extensively “updated” from the original 2005 version which won Redmond fame and a TV contract, with the characters brought into the here and now with plenty of modern-day references like I-phones and Grindrr apps. (By the way, dear readers no, I don’t have any plans to do the same to my book, Grace, Fully Living to leap Grace ahead two decades.)

The basic premise of the story, both on printed page and on the TV screen, is that a recently-divorced 40-something woman decides to go back to work after spending the past couple of decades at home, being a homemaker and mother to a girl who’s now college-aged and overseas. She finds it difficult to resurrect her once-promising career in publishing, and senses that bosses think her too old and inexperienced to be useful. Enter her best friend, Maggie, an avant garde lesbian artist, who goads and helps her into trying to look, dress and act younger… 26 in fact. With the new attitude, wardrobe and fuzzy resume, she gets back into her old field and finds new romantic interests. Of course, she lives in a constant low-level sense of fear with so much riding on her being assumed to be a perky young Millennial rather than a middle-aged mother.

The show on TV Land is now in its sixth season, with plenty of twists and turns in both her work life and love life. The book however, is narrower in range, covering just the first year she attempts to pull off the “younger” life. It’s one of a number of differences between the two. This part made it all the more interesting to me, as seeing the finished on-screen product, it was cool to see what the writers kept and what they altered from the original template.

*SPOILER ALERTS FOLLOW*

As I said, many things are the same… the basic facts of the heroine, her attempt to pull off being almost 20 years younger, her young love interest in Josh, her picky and prickly boss at the publishing house she goes to work at, her daughter’s mercurial nature and eventual return from charity work overseas, and Maggie. For all the similarities, there are differences aplenty.

Even the names have been changed. Our protagonist we all know as “Liza” on TV is Alice in the book. Her work friend played by Hillary Duff on the show is known as Kelsey there; Lindsay in the book. Other names are altered, although one which isn’t  Charles. The handsome boss on TV is… Mrs. Whitney in the book? Actually, his character doesn’t exist in the novel, with the boss being an aging feminist writer whose only interest in Liza/Alice is her ability to come up with modern covers and prologues for their catalog. Happily for Josh, no rival for the heart of our heroine appears on the pages. Meanwhile, Maggie is obsessed with becoming a mother in the book rather than finding a hot new lover, as the TV version is. Last but not least, her book stint at the publisher is abbreviated rather than years-long and elevated. She does however, find something creative and useful to do after the job in the book. You’ll need to read it to find out what that might be.

In short, the TV show centers largely around the dilemma of Liza needing to choose between the two loves – the age-appropriate (for 26 year old Liza) and fun Josh, or the age-appropriate (for by now close to 50 year-old mom Liza) successful and polite Charles. And, how far Liza and Kelsey can take their own division of the company with its “Millennial” titles.

The book, on the other hand, revolves around the conflict within Alice as to whether or not to follow her heart about Josh, whom she feels deep down too young and too likely to be disappointed in her down the road and the themes of motherhood played up by the ironic contrast between her and Maggie. She has spent much of her life being a mother and suburban housewife and wants to cut loose a bit; Maggie’s spent her life being wild and living the downtown life, now she yearns for something more domesticated white bread and apple pie.

Which version works better?

Both are quite entertaining and at least enthralling enough to keep one turning the pages or turning on the TV week after week. As Redmond says in the epilogue, “when you sell your book to TV or movies, you sell the rights for them to do whatever they want to your characters and stories.” She adds she loves the show and thinks Darren Star has “stayed true to the characters and spirit of the book while making some great additions.” That he has, and necessarily so. If true to her original book, Younger might have made an interesting movie but would never have the legs to run a show with episodes running for years.

All in all, a good enough book which will be all the better for fans of the show.

Grace, Fully Living… Sneak Preview

Pity poor Grace Tyler. She’s turned 30, she’s newly single, lives with a kitty who’s a real “fraidy cat” and she works putting ads for laxatives into magazine mockups. And of course, her younger brother is wildly successful in business and the apple of their mother’s eye. Her nerdy best friend from school is a blooming entrepreneur and the one man who seems to understand her is gay. The one man she’s wild about, she can’t seem to hook up with in the post-Y2K, pre-Iphone era and when she does, injuries and illnesses seem to follow along.

Can Grace find happiness? Or a good coffee shop to satisfy her caffeine-loving man of her dreams? In the manner of Bridget Jones Diary and He’s Just Not That Into You, we present the forthcoming novel GRACE, FULLY LIVING. A sneak peak… here!

 

 

The next morning, as per usual at 9:10, Labeth was leaning against Grace’s cubicle partition, travel mug in hand.

So the green soup is a go, along with the green bread, green cookies, top ten ways to make green beans and shamrock shakes recipes but I’ll be damned if we have room for the green rack of lamb. Figure I’m saving us a lawsuit dropping it anyway.”

Can hardly wait for the ‘Easter Eggs-citement’ issue.”

More green in my wallet, less in our magazine is my motto.” She sipped from her coffee and pulled a face. “That new chick at the coffee shop must be putting the shampoo she’s not using on her hair in my coffee.”

That’s the same one you called a ‘sloth’ the other morning?”

I said she moved like a sloth. And smelled like one too. But she shouldn’t have been listening in on my phone call…”

Everyone in the cafe has to listen in when you pull that thing out, Miss Moneybags!”

LaBeth grinned despite herself. “Cellphones are great! When are you going to join the 21st Century and get one?” Before Grace could answer, she added what had become her usual refrain since Royce had become history. “Or get a boyfriend. Or at least a guy to bump the headboard with and make you forget about that piece of turd whose name I refuse to speak?”

Bump the headboard with? God, I’d have a cast on my head- that thing’s solid oak! Besides,” she added perkily, “that guy I was telling you about from the ski store called me last night!”

Broken Jaw Bruce?”

Doug! Doug the Canadian.”

Canadian? Is he a hockey player? What’s he doing here?”

Looking for the girl of his dreams maybe.”

So are you going out for that coffee with him?”

Grace looked away. “Well, sometime…I told him I was real busy at work right now.”

Like you even think about ad spacing after 5 PM! Girl, I swear I don’t get you…”

I want to see him. I just don’t want him to see me like this. Crutches? Ain’t no way I’m getting my cute jeans on over this cast. How’s he even gonna see my butt if I’m in baggy trackpants?”

Put on ski pants and hope he buys into the ‘Sportsy You’ concept?”

The redhead rolled her eyes.

Say, my mother’s neighbor’s son just broke up with his wife. He’s a poker player or something. Maybe a cowpoke. Anyhow, he’s like 35 and not bad looking. Maybe you could come to dinner with me and Mom could invite…”

Did you not hear a word I just said?”

Have it your way, Four Legs!” With that she wandered away to her cubicle. Singing “One Is The Loneliest Number” all the way.

Grace turned back to her computer and began “March-ing Into Spring”. LaBeth’s section had been uploaded and she was able to fit a chewy antacid banner ad nicely beside a green Irish stew recipe like a hand in a glove. Next she flip-flopped the full page Campbell’s (Not green!) soup ad back and forth between recipes pages or between “Ask The Chef” and a feature on Ten Things To Do In Your Garden Now (To Be The Envy Of The Block Come July). She glanced at that article. “Prune those bushes” made her think again of beavers which led her mind back to Doug the Canadian. Should she have played her hand and been more effusive when he called? She sleepwalked through the ad placement for much of the rest of the morning until she came to an ad for a pet food brand that had the tagline “Feed Your Doggie With Style” which of course took her mind back to the Christmas party and the coatcheck room.

***

She’d been a bit self-conscious of her breath – well, a bit self-conscious, period…when was she not?- after the hors d’oeuvres that consisted of pearl onions and some sort of pate or spread she’d not encountered before but which seemed to be comprised largely of garlic and some sort of fish placed on a cracker. Ironic that her boyfriend played Metallica and schmoozed for a living while she helped women create the perfect meal, the perfect cocktail, the perfect home for the man to come home to, yet it was his company that put out the lavish, surely Emeril-approved spread. She recalled the year before her office party had a stack of pizzas delivered to go with the trough of icy Pepsis and Old Milwaukees.

The onions and odd meat-paste had made her as approachable as a dragon fresh from hibernation (she distinctly remembered thinking that and wondering if dragons hibernated) but she was sure she had a pack of gum in her coat pocket. She went to look for her coat, before trying to track down Royce, whom she’d not seen for what, fifteen? twenty-five minutes? Deftly maneouvring between a junior manager in a banana-colored suit and Jag the Sports Guy (a guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of Packers player stats through the decades, ego of a bear with a voice to match but the body of a junior high student who’d be bullied by guys like, well, adult Jag). Her college year working weekends as a waitress came in handy working through the crowd towards the coatcheck room.

She didn’t end up finding her gum. She did find Royce however, and understand why she’d not seen him for what, fifteen? twenty-five minutes? She didn’t spy her coat among the many hanging across the room right away but with that Harley Davidson tattoo just above it, there was no mistaking the ass gyrating in front of her nor the piglike squeals coming from its owner. It was less obvious to her who the shapely little ass underneath Royce belonged to; someone pert and short and pony-tailed. She was moaning for “daddy” to “drive it home” which was something Grace had never remotely considered asking despite Royce’s frequent utterance of “Who’s your daddy?” in the throes of passion.

As she played the scene over in her mind she came to realize she never did go back there later that night. Memo to self- go back to that club and see if they still have my coat. I loved that coat. And the gum was quite nice too, I think. The minty-fresh flavor lasted longer than most. Or than that bastard’s faithfulness for that matter.

The phone on her desk ringing snapped her back to the here and now and page 38 with its dog food ad. Dentyne had just changed the photo for their ad. Hello again Page 19, my old friend…