Flawed families foryour reading pleasure

Starting your summer reading list? Look no further!

by Kara Nesvig

To better explain the demented, dysfunctional wealthy family behind Katie Arnoldi’s new novel, “The Wentworths,” I’m going to attempt something no journalist should ever try: arithmetic. What one must have is an understanding of the critically acclaimed Fox TV series “Arrested Development,” which was canceled after only three brilliant seasons. Both “The Wentworths” and “Arrested Development” focus on a seriously messed-up family dynamic, and the similarities are, therefore, astoundingly easy to play “Math Genius” with.

The Wentworths

AUTHOR: Katie Arnoldi
PAGES: 256
PUBLISHER: Overlook Hardcover

Patriarch George Bluth, Sr. – stint in jail + ravenous sex drive + poor white-trash mistress = Augustus ‘Gus’ Wentworth.

Matriarch Lucille Bluth + Botox ñ any caloric intake x WASPy paranoia = Judith Wentworth.

Eldest son G.O.B. Bluth ñ “illusions” + cutthroat law career x cocksureness = Conrad Wentworth.

Daughter Lindsay Bluth x ridiculous body image issues x sexless marriage = Becky Wentworth-Jones.

Developmentally challenged youngest son Buster Bluth + homosexual desires + delusional psychological fantasies x Oedipus complex = Norman Wentworth.

Now, if those equations didn’t make sense to you, dear reader, I’ll explain: While the Bluth family was comically eccentric, the Wentworth crew, well, they need a few weeks in some seriously intense therapy. Not to say that “The Wentworths” isn’t a whip-smart, sly satire, because it is. It’s chock-full of sex and trashy enough to be a stereotypically perfect “beach read,” but then again, it’s sharp enough to be thought-provoking.

It’s sad to realize that there actually are families out there just like the Wentworths – probably in your friendly, affluent suburb. While reading, you thank your lucky stars that the Wentworths aren’t your blood kin, but it’s really kind of fun to play “fly on the wall” of their twisted California mansion.

Three Girls and Their Brother

AUTHOR: Theresa Rebeck
PAGES: 352
PUBLISHER: Shaye Areheart Books

In keeping with the familial theme of the previous review, playwright Theresa Rebeck’s debut novel, “Three Girls and Their Brother,” also focuses on a flawed family, this one revolving around its three flawless daughters. When “The New Yorker” commissions a photographic portrait of the Heller sisters – Daria, Polly and Amelia, granddaughters of a famous literary critic – the results of the shoot catapult the gorgeous redheads into the stratosphere of fame.

Narrating the first part of the novel (it’s split into chunks, each narrated by a different sibling) is acerbic brother Philip, who remains unimpressed by the world of celebrity his sisters are suddenly submerged in. When 14-year-old Amelia, the youngest sister, with no desire to model, bites a pervy mega-movie star, the press storm really begins and the Heller family must grapple with all the trials and tribulations that come along with newfound celebrity and try not to lose each other in the process.

As fallen starlets like Lindsay Lohan can attest, the fame game is not an easy one to play. Daria, Polly and Amelia are immediately inundated by champagne cocktails, cocaine and sexual propositions by the sharks and rats that populate the celebrity stratosphere. The sisters encounter aggressive agents and smarmy French billionaires while donning million-dollar lingerie for “GQ” magazine and starring in horrible off-Broadway plays.

“Three Girls and Their Brother,” like “The Wentworths,” is a breezy read; it’s easy to whip through the entire enjoyable 352 pages. It’s also Rebeck’s sly critique of Hollywood and its tendency to make celebrities out of nobodies overnight. Luckily, the Heller sisters are a hell of a lot smarter than the Hilton sisters, who seem to have inspired them, or “Three Girls and Their Brother” might have been given a hot pink book jacket and sold alongside the new issue of “Cosmopolitan.”