Adventures in American Literature #14: Switcheroo

Olivia Goldsmith (1949-2004) – Switcheroo (1998)

If you’ve read The First Wives Club, you’d probably want to skip this wacky little comedy, in which women try to teach their straying men some lessons in love; unlike TFWC, none of the solutions here are satisfying. The notion that a forty-year-old wife and a twentysomething mistress could switch places and no one would notice is a little too extreme, even with the wife getting plastic surgery and all the other silly things which keep the book bouncing along. A couple of parts are truly hilarious, like an absurdly tender moment when the ditzy mistress, trying her best to bring a turkey home to her married boyfriend for Thanksgiving dinner, coos lovingly as she tucks the bird into a seat belt in her car (in order to make sure the meal doesn’t get tossed out the window while she drives, of course).

The book forms a sad parallel with the author’s life. Goldsmith died during one of her routine excursions into cosmetic surgery (here’s a fascinating article about that), an occurrence eerily presaged by Switcheroo’s protagonist, the wife who voices relief that she survived her facelift: “Sylvie woke up choking and realized two things: she hadn’t died under the knife and she was in a stark white recovery room” (p. 106). That’s pretty bleak when you consider Goldsmith’s demise.

I wasn’t too pleased by the book’s ending, in which none of the male characters are held accountable for their scoundrel-ish tendencies, nor did I enjoy the shameless namedropping done by Goldsmith in reference to her own characters, Brenda and Elise, from The First Wives Club, which is weird and unnecessary to the narrative except as in-jokes that don’t really go anywhere. I was also disappointed by the number of spelling and punctuation errors, including sentences left hanging with forgotten periods and misspelling “that” as “taht” on the last page. (Perhaps this poor editing is only visible in the hardcover edition that I read.) Still, Switcheroo is a fun, fleeting, diversion. It’s good for a few hours when you have nothing else to do.

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