Ruth Saunders’s dream is about to come true: her script is about to be turned into a sitcom to be aired on a national network. But working with the network, studio and actors is not what she expected, her relationship with the grandmother who raised her is on the rocks, and she’s in love with a man that she thinks will never love her back. Jennifer Weiner is at the top of her game with her tenth novel, The Next Best Thing.
Severely scarred in the accident that killed her parents at the age of 3, Ruthie spent much of her childhood in the hospital, having surgery after surgery in an attempt to return the left side of her face to some semblance of normal. During that time, she and her grandmother watched hours of television, with The Golden Girls as their favorite show. Years later, as Ruth embarks on a career as a writer, she decides to move to Los Angeles and try to make it as a television writer.
Ruth is hired as an assistant on a television show and makes the mistake of falling for one of the writers, getting her heart broken in the process. After quitting the show and wallowing for a while, she starts writing college application essays and personal ads, landing both her grandmother and herself boyfriends. Thanks to help from the owners of a production company — both named Dave — that hires her, Ruth’s script for a sitcom based on her life gets picked up. The process of making a TV show quickly spirals out of Ruth’s control, she finds herself falling for one of the Daves and she loses her grandmother’s respect.
The Next Best Thing switches between the present, starting with Ruth learning if the studio is going to make a pilot from her script, and Ruth’s childhood — the accident, her surgeries, her relationship with her grandmother. Ruth struggles with her values and how much of the show — her baby — she’s willing to sacrifice to make this dream a reality. But through the process she gains valuable experience and loses some of her selfishness and finds that sometimes, dreams are what you make them.
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Nancy loves both television and reading, though it’s hard to do both at the same time. She also blogs at Life With My Boys and Books.