Saturday 11 February 2012

Review: A slot machine ate my midlife crisis - Irene Woodbury

Genre: - contemporary fiction  with a dash of romance
Pages: 350, ebook
Published: 2011
Review by Anachronist


Wendy Cantrell, 45, has just married her steady boyfriend of seven years, Roger, and became Mrs. Sinclair - a respectable wife of a popular architect. They both moved to Houston where he started to work over a big new development, Magnolia Crescent, leaving his wife alone in a house full of chameleons and cockroaches - an isolated newlywed in a strange city, freshly unemployed and feeling more like fish out of water with every passing day.

When Wendy’s friend, Paula, phoned her and suggested a long weekend in Las Vegas, Wendy went over the moon. Finally a bit of fun and shopping far from Roger’s new conservative friends and their nosy, conceited, gossiping wives. She went to Las Vegas and never returned. For many reasons. Wendy found Vegas  more laid-back than L.A., quirkier than Denver, looser than Houston. In Vegas, irreverence and outrageousness were the order of the day. She loved the wackiness and impulsive energy of that place. Her husband didn’t understand at all.

Roger went ballistic but Wendy decided it was her turn to be busy, especially that she got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work as a real clothing designer, not to mention her Ann-Margret act in the local casino. Was she just in the throes of some hideous midlife crisis, making a complete fool of herself because she‘d lost her job – and her identity – with it? What would become of her marriage and her career?

What I liked:

This novel was full of surprises. First of all its main heroine, Wendy, was far from a cliché I expected, judging this book from the cover. She was funny, she liked flirting, shopping and eating out but she tried to be faithful to her husband and she behaved in a far more dignified way than her younger friend, Paula.

It is a first-person narration so we get to know a lot about Wendy and her complicated marriage situation. Sometimes her reactions and musings are trite, sometimes poignant but always honest and believable. I do appreciate honesty a lot.

The way the plot was developed made the reading interesting as well. It wasn’t the ordinary “a married woman meets another guy and finds the love of her life but it’s already too late” kind. Practically till the very end we don’t know what Wendy’s decision will be. Such hesitancy about the future didn’t feel spurious although I did think once or twice how come a mature woman, knowing a man intimately for seven years, became so undecided all of a sudden. Well, the author tries to explain it in a logical way but you have to be patient.

Finally Las Vegas…well, here I share the feelings of Roger, who says:

“No other city in the world objectifies women as much and seems so proud of it. This whole town reeks of inauthenticity! Everything is fake. The buildings are façades or reproductions. Most of them are as disposable as movie sets in Hollywood. The breasts are silicone or saline. The entertainers are impersonators. Even the marriages are a sham. Vegas is an endless pit of illusions, cheap fakes, and trumped-up imitations, most of them stolen.”

In other words even if I were close to this city I wouldn’t feel like visiting it. However I did like the fact that the author presented both sides of it – the advantages and disadvantages. Let’s quote Wendy here:

“On these raging binge-fests of consumerism, I never thought about tomorrow, I didn‘t look back on yesterday, and I couldn‘t have cared less about today. Screw all that perspective and moderation stuff. I was suspended in a never-never-land of No Limit Shopping – guaranteed to take away the pain, make you forget about everything, and then some.”

 “At the end of these binge days in the Valley of the Malls, everything was hazy and blurred. I felt disconnected from reality, floating around in space at some cosmic super mall, where the only reality was shopping, shopping, shopping, eating, eating, eating. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else existed. It was a nirvana state, but agonizingly empty once the anesthesia wore off and I was back to square one the next day.”

What I didn’t like:

The title. I find it shallow and misleading. A slot machine eats just one kind of food – your money. Also the titles of particular chapters were a bit too long and silly. I would prefer there were no titles at all, just numbers, but it’s only me.

I  found some surprising mistakes inside. When a woman who, allegedly, worked a long time for an exclusive boutique chain speaks about Christian Laboutin instead of Louboutin, it makes my eyebrows arch. I am not a fashion fan but even I’ve heard of this designer brand name and its fabulously uncomfortable but beautiful and rather expensive shoes. Another example – fung shui instead of feng shui. Did the editor take a nap?

What’s more? Some expressions were repeated a bit too often like “lickety-split”. After a while it started to annoy me.

Final verdict:

This book surprised me rather nicely. Despite some shallow parts and scenes straight from “Sex in the City” I enjoyed it, especially that the ending took me by surprise...again. :)


  1. Unlike you, I love the title of this book - but it didn't match the synopsis. I was hoping for something outrageously funny or about a middle aged gambling addict. Great review but not a book for me.

  2. The genre I would describe as contemporary fiction with a dash of romance. ;)

  3. hmmm i'm unsure about the satc parts, lol!

  4. Reading from your review, the story sounded a bit shallow to me...

  5. This does sound interesting, and I do agree, I don't care much for the title either.

  6. I like the idea of a middle aged woman being the star of this book. We don't see that too often.
    I don't know if I would like it or not but I would give it a shot - looks interesting.

  7. thanks for all your comments!

    Cherry, what can you expect from a book set in Las Vegas? Some parts of it were rahter shallow...

    Naida the title is simply false. You might like it or not but you must know it is misleading.

    Karen - that's why I accepted the book for reviewing, finally an older woman and her problems are the in the focus ;)

    Blodeuedd - my pleasure!

  8. The book lost me at Vegas.

  9. I have this one on my Nook to review. Eventually I will get to it. It sounds kind of cute (although the title is kind of weird)

  10. huh...sounds...interesting. hahaha Sounds too 'Sex and the City' for me. So I may have to skip this. GREAT review though!

  11. Great review Ana, I want to read this book myself. And I admire the heroine for going off to Las Vegas and just staying there instead of in her life that is so boring. You did make me curious about the ending now!



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