The Smart One – Ellen Meister

Title: The Smart One
Author: Ellen Meister
ISBN: 0061129623
Pages: 384
Release Date: August 5, 2008
Publisher: Avon A
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

From the back cover:

Bev is the Smart One, who finally leaves her artistic ambitions in chalk dust (and her humor-impaired husband in the arms—and legs—of his nubile protégée) to become a schoolteacher. Clare is the Pretty One, who married well and seems to be living a designer version of the suburban dream. Joey is the Wild One, struggling to stay clean and sober now that she’s used up her fifteen minutes of fame as a one-hit-wonder rock star.

They love each other but mix like oil, water, and hundred-proof gin . . . a combination that threatens to combust over family tensions, suspected infidelities, a devastating accident, a stunning confession, and the sudden reappearance of their handsome, now all-grown-up former neighbor, Kenny Waxman, who’s back in town making his mark as a TV comedy writer.

It seems they’ll never understand where their differences begin and their own destructive tendencies end. Then it happens: the sisters discover a decades-old body stuffed inside an industrial drum and begin a bold, heartbreaking, and sometimes hilarious journey that will either bring them together . . . or tear them apart for good.

I’ve heard good things about The Smart One by Ellen Meister, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try after leaving it languishing on my shelf for far too long. It was an enjoyable chick lit read about the relationships between sisters.

The Smart One was definitely a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the mystery portion of the novel – it added something extra to the classic chick lit formula. The discovery of the body and the suspicion that surrounds it are a real driving force in the novel. Though the entire “body in the industrial drum” storyline is actually secondary to the main plot of the book, I definitely felt like that was what was moving the story forward and creating a sense of urgency within the novel.

This book was very unique. These days, a lot of chick lit feels like it has been done over and over again. However, with The Smart One, I never felt like I was reading something that had been done before. The twist at the ending was also a very big surprise; Meister should be commended on her imagination and ability to write a very good story.

My one real complaint about The Smart One was the characters; I had trouble sympathizing with any of them. All three women seemed to be stuck in their stereotypes: the smart one, the pretty one, the wild one. They also didn’t communicate with each other at all. Either they talked over/at one another or they didn’t really listen to what the other sisters are saying. Now, sisters do have some trouble getting along and communicating, I can vouch for this with my own sister. But as we’ve gotten older and become adults, we’ve started communicating better and realizing that the other person is more complex and varied than we gave them credit for. It’s the nature of growing up. So, then, why is Bev 35 years old but still doesn’t realize there is more to her sister Clare than just being a pretty face? And why, when Clare tries to open up to her about her issues, does Bev immediately jump to judging her? (Not that what Clare was doing was ok, but I think her message would have gotten across more effectively had she been a little more understanding of the situation.) I’m not saying that people should be perfect, but by the age of 35 I would hope I had learned more nuance than is portrayed in this book. These issues would have been more believable had the sisters been closer to 25. (I realize I might be alone in this judgment and I might expect too much of people, but this did really bother me).

Still, The Smart One is an enjoyable book that anyone with a sister would probably enjoy. And in case you (like me) were wondering what exactly an industrial drum is, here is a picture:


  1. Chick lit with a mystery thrown in sounds good!

  2. It’s tough for me to read a book when I don’t really feel “into” any of the characters! Nice review, Swapna. I think this cover is very pretty!

Leave a Reply

Comment Policy:  I welcome comments and read each one I receive. If your comment needs a response, I will provide it in a timely manner, as I read every comment I receive. Please keep your comments civil and polite! I reserve the right to delete any comments that are rude or inappropriate. Because of spam, I have to moderate comments on old posts. Please be patient - I will approve your comment quickly.

Before the tag in the Genesis footer: !-- Quantcast Tag -->