Sundays at Tiffany’s
By James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
Hachette Book Group, January 2009
As a child I enjoyed fairy tales as much as the next girl. They were happy, pretty stories that made me feel good inside for having heard them. Even so, the small details that didn’t quite ring true always left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied. The charming prince who climbed to Rapunzel’s rescue, using her hair as a ladder (ouch!) The busy mice that helped to sew Cinderella’s gown (oh, please!) Such was the case with James Patterson’s latest effort, Sundays at Tiffany’s. A nice, happy story. But …
For eight-year-old Jane Margaux, childhood is a lonely time spent living in the shadow of her successful, controlling mother, Vivienne. The pain and confusion of being a little girl living in a grown-up world is softened only by the presence of Michael, Jane’s imaginary friend. Their time together includes Sunday afternoons at New York’s St. Regis Hotel, where the pair shares sundaes and secrets while Vivienne conducts business. When he leaves Jane on her ninth birthday for a new assignment, Michael softens the blow by promising her she will forget him by the next day. But Jane never forgets. Twenty-plus years later, Michael returns to Jane’s life, the perfect man, and the friend she needs more desperately than ever.
This charming story has a lot going for it. I found the characters to be extremely likeable, especially Jane. Despite her high-power job and posh lifestyle, Jane is as short on self-confidence as she is long on human kindness. Though he has his flaws, Michael possesses the sort of kindness that restores one’s faith in humanity. The author’s descriptions of New York are spot-on, transporting the reader into the beauty and chaos of the Big Apple, allowing them to alternately experience a night at the Metropolitan Museum, and an afternoon at a Spanish Harlem homeless shelter, without missing a beat.
Unfortunately, Patterson/Charbonnet’s story line was not quite as believable as their chosen setting. I had a hard time accepting the premise of a child’s imaginary friend returning to her adult life, and that skepticism made it tough for me to really connect with this story. I found the shifting viewpoints (first-person for the Jane chapters, and third-person for the Michael chapters) to be slightly irritating. Even so, the story was written with a nice blend of humor and touches of poignancy that tugged at the heart strings. It ended on a positive note, with a message of hope that left me feeling good, if somewhat skeptical.