Journalist/author/screenwriter Emma Forrest writes like the girl next door... if the girl next door is a savvy, sharp gal with encyclopedic pop culture knowledge. Her third novel continues the offbeat characters and dark, quirky writing. "Cherries in the Snow" is a bit like its namesake -- bright and engaging.
Sadie Steinberg is a British twentysomething living in New York, and employed at chic Grrl Cosmetics. Her job? She comes up with the kicky nicknames for makeup, like "Ass-Slapping Pink" and "Born To Run," (yes, I'd love that job too) and aspires to create a name as memorable as "Cherries in the Snow." Lipstick is also a barometer for her moods. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, but Sadie wears hers on her mouth.
Then her love life takes a radical shift, after way too many "father figure" men (Dr. Freud, you may now leave the stage) who are twice her age. One day Sadie encounters hippie-esque graffiti artist Marley, and they fall in love. But Sadie has a rival for his affections: his young daughter Montana, who eerily reminds Sadie of herself.
Sounds like your typical chick-lit? Trust me, it's not -- at least, it's not the fluffy twenty-something-woman-in-love stuff that is churned out on a monthly basis. Emma Forrest is far wittier and more flippant, sort of like if Nick Hornby had been born a girl. To dismiss "Cherries in the Snow" as "chick-lit" is a disservice of the worst kind.
Forrest's writing has grown up a bit since her debut novel, "Namedropper." There are echoes of her earlier work -- Holly in particular reminds one of sexy, free-spirited Treena -- but Forrest's writing has become a bit deeper over time. Here, she's taking a harder look at friendships, love affairs, and dating men with children.
But if her themes have gotten deeper, Forrest hasn't lost her knack for acidic observation. Or, for that matter, her ability to steep her books in pop culture without making them seem trendy or gimmicky. On the subject of Holly, Sadie muses that "you have that intense, romantic love for your best friend and if it ends, the breakup is absolutely traumatizing." Insights like those can cut like a knife.
The cover of "Cherries in the Snow" sums up the book pretty well. Reminiscent of a minimalist makeup ad, feminine, colorful yet a bit wink-nudge. Much like the book itself.