Set in 1980s Chicago, this debut novel follows the glamorous Babs Ballentyne, heiress to a great American chocolate fortune, who does whatever the fuck she wants. Lavish parties in her Lake Shore Drive penthouse with lewd installations. An affair with a married man who “admires her centerfold” after hours on the golf course of his staid country club while his wife is asleep at home. Crashing funerals and leaving souvenirs under coffins.
At the center of it all is Babs’s sensitive, bookish ten-year old daughter Bettina, who is enthralled by her narcissistic mother and wants nothing more than her affection and approval. Instead, she must put up with humiliation after humiliation before escaping to an elite East Coast prep school. Once there, she struggles to fit in with her conventional peers (one of whom happens to be the son of Babs’s lover) as she walks the fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction. Will she escape Babs’s mesmerizing maternal shadow and finally make different choices, or remain in an abyss of violent sex, compulsive lying, and self-sabotage?
This electric debut could be described as Mommie Dearest, Prep, and 50 Shades of Grey all rolled into one.
And somehow, Norton manages to combine Babs’s careless cruelty with biting comedy, so the novel is as funny as it is bleak.
Buy it, Read it, Book Club It!