Satire isn’t my go-to when I want a laugh but I did enjoy this spiky little story about relationship triangles and over-inflated egos.
Marcy Dermansky’s Very Nice is told from the perspective of three characters – it begins with Rachel Klein, who never meant to kiss her creative writing professor. Said writing professor is Zahid Azzam, and he never planned to become a house guest in Rachel’s sprawling Connecticut home, but he does. Rachel’s mother, Becca, never thought she’d have a love affair so soon after the end of her marriage, but when Zahid arrives, she does…
There are important supporting characters – a poodle named Princess/ Posey; twin sisters Khloe and Kristi; a babysitter; a child with a gun; and Rachel’s father and his new lover (a young pilot named Mandy*). The roll-call of characters gives a good sense of the ensuing mayhem.
Triangles structure the novel at the broadest level – Rachel/Zahid/Becca and Zahid/Khloe/Kristi and Khloe/Zahid/babysitter – as well as in the detail – a trio of purple bathing suits, and the push-and-pull over the dog. Dermansky manages to be both subtle and obvious – the best qualities in satire.
There was something about Becca that had appealed to me from the moment I saw her. This was the kind of woman I needed in my life. A beautiful woman with a big, beautiful house. A woman who would walk my dog, who would not want children, who would not expect me to produce another masterpiece. A woman who had been let down by another man.
The characters are spectacularly self-centred; there are some sensationally overly-dramatic scenes; and you’re pretty much guaranteed to hate everyone except the dog. Look beyond the very nice swimming pool (the focus of much of the action) and there’s an interesting examination of a mother-daughter relationship; the burden of expectations; and what happens when life doesn’t go as planned.
I used to worry that my friends didn’t actually like me. They liked hanging out in my house. They liked my mother. We had a swimming pool.
3.5/5 Don’t take this book too seriously, and instead enjoy it for what it is – a very nice satire.
Becca makes turkey sandwiches each day for lunch by the pool.
*“I was named after a Barry Manilow song. I was ashamed of this fact for a long time, but no one really remembers him anymore, so it’s okay. It was my mother’s favourite song.”
Related: when I went to see Barry in cabaret in Vegas, I sat next to a girl and her mother. The girl’s name was Mandy. We went crazy when he played it.