After Wife (Grazer)

The After Wife
Gigi Levangie Grazer, 2012
Random House
320 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780345524003

Gigi Levangie Grazer, the New York Times bestselling author of The Starter Wife, returns with a hilarious and spirited tale of love—both lost and found.

L.A. is no place for widows. This is what forty-four-year-old Hannah Bernal quickly discovers after the tragic death of her handsome and loving husband, John. Misery and red-rimmed eyes are little tolerated in the land of the beautiful. But life stumbles on: Hannah’s sweet three-year-old daughter, Ellie, needs to be dropped off at her overpriced preschool, while Hannah herself must get back to work in order to pay the bills on “Casa Sugar,” the charming Spanish-styled bungalow they call home.

Fortunately, Hannah has her “Grief Team” for emotional support: earth mother and fanatical animal lover Chloe, who finds a potential blog post in every moment; aspiring actress Aimee, who has her cosmetic surgeon on speed dial; and Jay, Hannah’s TV producing partner, who has a penchant for Mr. Wrong. But after a series of mishaps and bizarre occurrences, one of which finds Hannah in a posh Santa Monica jail cell, her friends start to fear for her sanity. To make matters worse, John left their financial affairs in a disastrous state. And when Hannah is dramatically fired from her latest producing gig, she finds herself in danger of losing her house, her daughter, and her mind.

One night, standing in her backyard under a majestic avocado tree, in the throes of grief, Hannah breaks down and asks, “Why?” The answer that comes back—Why not?—begins an astounding journey of discovery and transformation that leads Hannah to her own truly extraordinary life after death. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—January 2, 1963
Where—Los Angeles, California, USA
Education—B.A., University of California, Los
   Angeles (UCLA)
Currently—lives in Los Angeles, Californnia

Georgianne "Gigi" Levangie Grazer is an American novelist and screenwriter. She attended UCLA, where she majored in political science. Her Hollywood career began as an intern on a late-night talk show, for which she wrote sketches; she later became an assistant to producer Fred Silverman, who dissuaded her from attending law school by offering her a substantial raise and writing assignments for the television series In the Heat of the Night.

Grazer is the author of five novels: Rescue Me (2000), Maneater (2003), which was turned into a Lifetime miniseries, The Starter Wife (2006), which was adapted for a 2007 miniseries on the USA Network. Its success led to a regular series that lasted one season. Her fourth novel, Queen Takes King, was released in 2009, and is being developed by Lifetime for a television movie. Her fifth novel, The After Wife, was published in 2012. She has written numerous magazine articles, featured in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Glamour. She recently published "Wasbands and Wives, Seven Reasons to Stay Married", in Huffington Post.

Grazer's screenplay for the Susan Sarandon-Julia Roberts film Stepmom was based on her experience dealing with husband Brian Grazer's children Riley and Sage from his first marriage. Grazer is a host and judge for the Logo original series The Arrangement, a floral arranging competition reality television series. She has also appeared as a guest judge in Seasons 2 and 3 of RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo.

Personal life
In her 20s she was married to an "alluring Indian, Italian, African-American blues musician." They separated after three years and later divorced. She met Brian Grazer by accident at Orlando-Orsini on Pico at a lunch with a Playboy executive. They dated for six years and married on September 20, 1997. Gigi and Brian Grazer have two sons. Two weeks after her novel, The Starter Wife, was published (in 2006), Brian filed for legal separation. The two later reconciled; however, Brian filed for divorce on June 8, 2007, citing irreconcilable differences after nearly ten years of marriage. (From Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
[Grazer is] a quick-witted beach book queen.
New York Times

Jackie Collins with a sense of humor.
Wall Street Journal

Grazer’s entertaining satire is sure to spice up any occasion.
Publishers Weekly

After being widowed, a woman begins to see ghosts everywhere in Grazer's breezy postscript to The Starter Wife (2005). When her husband, John, a personal chef and cookbook author, is the victim of a hit-and-run while biking to the market, 40ish Hannah Bernal's life is upended. A stay-at-home dad to the Bernals' toddler daughter Ellie, John also ran their household (in Santa Monica's fashionable NoMo district) and made meals that went beyond mere nourishment. Hannah's colleague and best friend Jay, a trash-talking gay man, forms a "Grief Team" with two of Hannah's eccentric girlfriends, to help her get back on her feet. But John's death has imbued Hannah with a sixth sense. Under her backyard avocado tree, Hannah sees her first ghost, Trish, the former owner of Hannah's historic house. Hannah's side-chatter with ghostly interlopers at a business meeting gets her and Jay fired from their jobs in reality TV. The first time John appears, the parted spouses argue about topics serious (he let his life insurance policy lapse) and absurd (are Crocs shoes or sandals?). When John reveals that his hit-and-run killer was a Range Rover driven by a texting Momzilla, not a truck driven by the illegal immigrant who was arrested for the crime, Hannah goes to the aid of the immigrant, convincing the police to refocus their investigation. Unable to refinance her home and threatened with foreclosure (a Realtor frenemy is hounding her to sell to a tear-down entrepreneur), Hannah is a bit slow (especially for an ex-reality TV producer) to see the monetary potential in ghost whispering. A New Year's trip to Palm Desert for high colonics, Team in tow, occasions arch commentary on what L.A. sybarites consider entertainment. Her friends have their own troubles, involving coyotes, Pomeranians, feckless married men and failed auditions. Hannah's banter with interlocutors, corporeal or not, is the chief pleasure here, more so than the leggy and disjointed plot. Darkly humorous look at grief, L.A.-style.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for The After Wife:

1. Is this book funny? If so what makes it funny...and should a book on grief even attempt to be family? If you don't find the book funny, why not?

2. Off all the characters in the book, do you have a favorite (or favorites)? How, especially, would you describe Hannah?

3. At one point, Hannah tells us that "When John died Ellie's innocence died. He crawled down a rabbit hole and dragged us with him." Does death strip one of innocence, especially for children but even for adults? Should young children be "protected" from death somehow? How honest, or frank, should one be with youngsters?

4. Rhoda at Ellie's nursery school, Bunny Hill, behaves with shocking insensitivity, even cruelty toward Hannah and her daughter. Compare that to the kindness Stephanie extends with Hannah at the Methodist nursery school. Although those are extreme, people react differently to someone's loss. What does one say to a grieving acquaintance (other than a close friend)? Is it possible, as an acquaintance, to offer comfort? Are you personally uncomfortable around someone who has lost an important person in his/her life?

5. Hannah is urged to begin dating. How soon does one wait to start a romantic relationship after losing a spouse or loved one? Have you ever been surprised by someone who began dating after losing a spouse?

6. Hannah crosses over into the spirit world. Is she hallucinating? Or is this a novel of magical realism (along the lines of  Alice Hoffman, or Sarah Allen Addison)? Or is there a spiritual world that living humans can connect with?

7. What do you think of Hannah's first contact with John? What about John's worr—after Hannah has had sex with Tom? Funny? Not funny?

8. Did you guess who Brandon's romantic interest was?

9. What are your favorite passages or sections of the book...and why?

10. What about the you find it satisfying?

11. Have you read anything else by Grazer—The Starter Wife or Queen Takes King? If so, how does The After Wife compare? Does this book make you want to read Grazer's other works?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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