Do you ever see celebrities on the red carpet at premieres and other events, and wonder about the people who work behind the scenes to create those photo opportunities? Do you ever consider the advertisements you see for movies and television shows: Who conceptualizes them? Who executes the creative ideas? Why do the marketing campaigns convince you that you want to see the movie?
And what are the lives of the people behind the scenes like? Is the entertainment industry really as cutthroat and competitive as it has been portrayed in various books, movies, and television series?
In her latest book, best selling author Margo Candela provides answers to some of those questions, but Good-Bye to All That is much more than a superficial tale about Hollywood archetypes. It is an intelligent, witty, fast-paced, and surprisingly thoughtful story about one ambitious young woman’s foray into corporate life.
Welcome to the Crazy Book Tour for Good-Bye to All That
Raquel Azorian, 25, is one of the folks working behind the scenes at Belmore Corporation, a Hollywood production and marketing company. An executive assistant, she works night and day to her make her boss, Bert Floss, look good in hopes that he will reward her loyalty with the promotion she dreams about.
Meanwhile, her family is in turmoil. Her mother has left her father and is ensconced in Raquel’s apartment, while her married brother is miserable.
Office politics and backstabbing lead to a humiliating breakdown for Bert. When he is exiled from the office, Raquel has to figure out how to save his career and, in the process, her own. Reduced to being a receptionist, locked out of her computer files, and targeted for dismissal by Bert’s arch rival, Raquel calls upon the few allies she has to help her with what will either be a major coup — sure to garner that long-awaited promotion — or a fiasco that will decimate her budding career.
Meanwhile, Kyle Martin, an up and coming Belmore executive, has taken a romantic interest in Raquel. But are Kyle’s affections genuine? Should Raquel trust him? Or is she a fool to get entangled in an office romance, especially when the distance between her spot and Kyle’s on the corporate organizational chart is so vast?
Good-Bye to All That has deservedly been named “Best Beach Read” for 2010 by Los Angeles magazine. It has all the elements needed to lose yourself completely in the world of Raquel Azorian for a few hours while basking in the hot summer sun.
First, Raquel is an empathetic heroine. There’s a little bit of Raquel in each of us. She’s a contradictory mixture of self-doubt and determination. Imaginative and cunning, with just the right amount of chutzpah thrown in, she subsists on a diet with which most single women are familiar: Diet Coke and strawberry Pop-Tarts. When she sets in motion a scheme designed to salvage her boss’ faltering career and prevent her own from being declared dead on arrival before it has really even begun, you just can’t help but cheer her on. Suddenly, the pages begin flipping even faster as the plot literally thickens and Raquel races to outwit and outplay her corporate nemesis.
Secondly, Candela’s cast of supporting characters are as vibrantly drawn and intriguing as her protagonist. Raquel’s dysfunctional family members are both hilarious and heart-breaking. Marlene, her needy, co-dependent mother parks herself in Raquel’s apartment, drinking and watching television all day, but Raquel can’t bring herself to banish her. Meanwhile, Raquel’s undemonstrative father is at home where the neighbor women are beginning to fill her mother’s absence with food and flirting. Cricket, Raquel’s annoying sister-in-law, wants to have the perfect suburban life: A husband, home, children, and security. So why is Raquel’s brother so desperately unhappy and looking to escape domesticity?
Candela is at her best, however, in the multi-story Belmore world where parking place assignments reflect corporate status, conference room seating is based upon rank, and alliances are tenuous. Anyone who has ever worked in an office will appreciate the nuanced manner in which Candela pulls you into the daily drama at the place where Raquel, et al. dwell. Her descriptions are so vivid that you can practically smell swiveling leather chairs, photocopy toner, and the gum balls that Raquel loads into the machine in Bert’s office. The population of Belmore is drawn to perfection, as well, from the sole executive assistant who offers solace and advice to Raquel — but has his own self-interested agenda — to the nameless, faceless coworkers who scurry past Raquel’s desk without looking at or speaking to her when it appears that both she and Bert will soon be unemployed.
And, of course, there is romance. Kyle Martin seems too good to be true: Handsome, intelligent, charming, and able to see past Raquel’s drab, dressed for success style. But when the choices he makes are revealed, there is no satisfaction in having guessed correctly. The real question, though, is whether Raquel will be strong enough to deal with the fall-out.
Finally, Candela’s dialogue is crisp and believable, and the story moves at a brisk pace, never bogging down for even a page or two. There are a couple of surprising plot twists that demonstrate how expertly Candela has constructed Good-Bye to All That: You will find yourself wondering how you missed the clues.
Candela wisely avoids a classic happy ending worthy of the book’s setting (Hollywood). Rather, she crafts a believable conclusion that is, like real life, poignant and ironic, and leaves the reader pondering Raquel’s future, as well as Kyle’s.
Good-Bye to All That is one of the few books that I will probably read again in order to appreciate Candela’s attention to detail and the clever way she reveals key story points. Candela says she admires “tidy writers like Delia Ephron and Anne Tyler, who write about messy life situations.” Clearly, she has learned from two of the best because “tidy” is an excellent way to describe Candela’s own taut writing. Good-Bye to All That is the first of Candela’s books I have read, but it definitely won’t be the last.
I read Good-Bye to All That in conjunction with the 2010 Read ‘n’ Review Challenge.