REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books – ‘The Editor’

By Steven Rowley, Penguin/Random House, hardcover, 320 pages, 2019, $27.00

REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books – ‘The Editor’By DONNA MCCROHAN ROSENTHAL

People don’t generally remember that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had a fascinating and influential career following the death of husband Aristotle Onassis. She acquired prominence as a high-powered editor at Viking Press, then Doubleday. Steven Rowley’s new novel “The Editor” begins with the premise that an author learns that his agent has sold his manuscript not simply to a major house but that in fact, Jackie O will oversee the project.

Initially starstruck, the writer grows as a gifted talent under her guidance. He undertakes a friendship with the former First Lady, visits her Martha’s Vineyard retreat and sets out on a journey of gut-wrenching self-discovery.

His good luck turns sour almost immediately when the book ignites a series of crises, one in his family and another of the heart. His mother wishes he had stopped his saga at Word One and refuses to say why. He adores her and always has. Yet now, she’s put up barriers and won’t let him in. Jackie, drawing on her sensibilities as a mother —and determined to realize his novel’s full potential — urges him to get to the bottom of his mom’s disapproval. Meanwhile, temptation in the form of Jackie’s assistant threatens his seemingly stable love life. Excitement vs. a solid relationship. Tantalizing forbidden fruit vs. appreciating someone who genuinely cares.

Revelations ensue. More than that, touchingly real characters emerge, along with rich glimpses of the publishing and theater scene in New York City. Through it all and ultimately, we embrace a memorable tribute to motherhood.

Rowley’s first novel “Lily and the Octopus,” a deeply autobiographical story of a man fighting to save his dog, captured a worldwide audience in 2016 as an international bestseller subsequently translated into 20 languages. Both it and “The Editor” are in development as feature films. Rowley borrowed events from his “Lily” experiences to create “The Editor.” Combining humor with empathy and observation with unerring instinct, he spins an absorbing tale.

Sincere, palpable feelings ring true on every page. Rowley presents his narrative in first-person so well that you find yourself wondering, “Did he know Jackie or not?” No, he didn’t. But you can’t help asking yourself anyhow.

He’s that good.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the Califor-nia Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Story First Published: 2019-05-17