Friday, July 8, 2011


by Katie Lee
New York, Gallery Books, 2011
221 pages     Fiction

Groundswell by Katie Lee is a sentimental novel about a young woman finding love, losing it, and finding it again. It is also a novel about having it all and then finding out that what you have isn’t what you want. The plot is simple. Emma Guthrie is a young production assistant on a movie set when she catches the eye of a famous movie star, Garrett Walker. Several years into a very glamorous and public marriage to Garrett, she finds him cheating on her with her best friend, Lily. When the pressure of the paparazzi gets to be too much, she escapes to Mexico where she finds solace in surfing and a hunk of a surfing instructor named Ben. Is this what she wants?

One redeeming factor for Emma is that she has a career as a screenwriter with a blockbuster summer movie hit. One of the taglines of the book tries to stress this fact:  "how losing everything you thought you wanted can be the first step to finding what you need." She has parlayed her love story with Garrett into the first movie hit, and then she creates a second movie hit from the divorce, the surfing, and Ben. She is following the mandate, “Write what you know.”

Groundswell is set among the glamour of celebrity New York. It has the requisite best friend (the betrayer), the older friend who knows everything about everything, the friend from home who understands her, and the gay designer friend. It is fun to read about shopping, and jewelry, and beautiful expensive clothes and shoes. We are glad for Emma that she has a supportive older woman friend that can help her navigate the stresses of celebrity life and celebrity divorce. We are grateful for her assistant, Grace, who seems to genuinely care about her and her well-being. And we love the idea of Ben making love to Emma on a surf board and in his beach shack, a far cry from the glamour of her New York life. In the end, however, we stuff the book back into our beach bag, sigh, and then move on the next summer read.

Katie Lee is a beautiful woman, the young ex-wife of Billie Joel, the author of two cookbooks and the host of television cooking shows. Is she a novelist? I am not sure. I know for sure that she is following the same mandate she has given Emma, “Write what you know.” The jacket of Groundswell, her new novel, should give the reader the idea that this book is not very original, “Eat, surf, love,” it says. I believe that I have already read a book with a similar title that I really loved. The quote from another author on the cover says, “Groundswell is the must-have accessory for this summer’s beach bag!” Truer words were never spoken. I chuckled when I read the last sentence from the Kirkus book review, “Beach readers may find sand gnats more entertaining.”

Groundswell has garnered quite a bit of publicity, i.e. reviews and interviews in the mass media. It is a bit sad to me that the power of celebrity can contribute to the success of a novel, while well-written books can languish and fade away. I recently read an article about the difference between talented musicians and corporate-created musicians—dare we say Billy Joel or Elton John as opposed to one of the Jonas Brothers. I guess I felt the same way about Katie Lee as a novelist. Last week I read The Long Shining Waters by a very talented writer, Danielle Sosin. Katie Lee is not in the same class at all.

All that having been said, Groundswell was quick, fun, and engrossing while it lasted. I kept looking up and down our beach for Ben, the surfer. All I saw were children playing in the sand and splashing in the waves. Oops…I’m supposed to be watching them!

Katie Lee’s website:
I received this book from the publisher as part of a blog tour.

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