Soup in the City – Kelly Hollingsworth

Title: Soup in the City
Author: Kelly Hollingsworth
ISBN: 0981695809
Pages: 300
Release Date: June 25, 2008
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: **** (out of 5)

From the back cover:

When she’s not abusing credit cards, caffeine, and carbohydrates, Avery St. George wonders how to penetrate Manhattan’s unforgiving outer shell. If she could just lose a few pounds and squeeze into the right labels, her friends might actually invite her to some of their A-list functions.

But then Avery loses her lucrative hedge fund job and has much bigger questions to ponder. What happens to girls who spend all their money on Lanvin platform pumps and have nothing left for bus fare? Can one person really survive on twenty dollars a week? Has anyone ever died from the pressure of skull-crunching debt?

As Avery rolls up her sleeves and sheds the excesses of her old life, she discovers that authenticity is the best accessory. And that sometimes you have to lose everything to find yourself.

When I first started reading Soup in the City, I was unsure of whether I was going to enjoy it or not. I can’t read books about women who compulsively spend money, sending themselves into deeper and deeper debt – believe me, I’ve tried to read Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic books more than once. I’m too much of a worrier for it not to bother me. So of course, after reading about Avery buying a $50,000 coat off of eBay, I was troubled. Then, when Avery realizes the extent of her debt, she seems to exist in a state of denial, continuing to order expensive takeout and popping a sleeping pill every time thoughts about her debt surface.

But then, Avery begins to face her situation. She doesn’t act perfectly, and makes many mistakes along the way, but she begins to pick up the pieces and confront reality. I really enjoy books with this sort of turnaround. I like seeing a character grow and change; not learning from past mistakes is perhaps the most frustrating character trait. And it’s not a magical change. Avery falls back into old habits when she panics and doesn’t always treat people the way they deserve to be treated. But still, it is incredibly rewarding to witness the changes she makes in her life. When she binges on donuts, she is as disgusted with herself as the reader is with her. That quality of writing characters is one that is harder than it seems; too often, in order to generate conflict, an author will continue a character down a repetitive path, despite the fact that it completely frustrates a reader.

Despite my initial misgivings, I definitely enjoyed this book. The story keeps the reader interested, and I love where Avery ends up. I enjoyed the business she created for herself; at the beginning of the book, I thought “she went to Yale? Really?” because her behavior was not consistent with that notion. But as she developed her business, her intelligence and aptitude really came to the forefront. Hollingsworth really deserves credit for this; she managed to write a character that had skills that were completely hidden from the reader (as well as from Avery herself). Yet, when she begins to display them, the reader isn’t surprised because of the way she’s written Avery. It’s a difficult thing to do, and Hollingsworth accomplished it very well.

I’d recommend Soup in the City to anyone who enjoys reading a character driven story. You don’t even really have to like chick lit – though it has those elements, the story isn’t about Avery’s search for a boyfriend. I think this book would appeal to a lot more people than the pink cover suggests. Give it a try! And a big thank you to Kelly Hollingsworth for sending me a copy of this to review!

Comments

  1. This does sound interesting and a pretty cover!

    For awhile I didn’t want to read about debt but after paying off my credit card after I graduated from college I celebrated by mooching “Save Karyn” which is about Karyn getting herself out of debt with the kindness of strangers (memoir-based on her website), still haven’t read it, but definitely didn’t want to read it when I still had a balance on my credit card! I have the first two shopaholic books, my friend loves them, haven’t tried them yet. The movie trailer is hilarious though!

  2. I’m too much of a worrier to enough money to go into debt too. I had a brief spell when I was young but it’s been over for years and I won’t go back. This books sounds like a good read-I’d never heard of it before but it’s definitely one for the list. The cover is great!

  3. Rita Hollingsworth says:

    I enjoyed reading your review almost as much as I enjoyed reading my daughter’s first novel.

    As a reader, I also was troubled with Avery’s binge-eating and self-loathing practices. And I also felt disgust with her decision to splurge on “The Coat” as pathway toward personal salvation.

    But like you, I applauded and enjoyed the discovery of the character’s pick-yourself-up; dust-yourself-off approach to accessing the winding road to adulthood.

    As much as I like Avery, I like my daughter’s way with words more. She strings nouns and verbs together as if they were pearls on a golden strand. The sound of her words is gentle; its tempo is pure and its meaning is absolute.

    Kelly’s writing is reading for pleasure, absolute!

    Rita Hollingsworth

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