Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #57: The Hot Flash Club by Nancy Thayer

First of all, this is a book for women. So if you’re a guy, don’t bother because you just won’t get it. A take-off on Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, this book is about women when they reach that certain age—and you’ll know it when you get there! It’s about loss of self-confidence, loss of memory, loss of hair (except in the wrong places), loss of elasticity, loss of sleep, loss of sex drive, loss of jobs. It’s also about gain—weight gain, anxiety gain…  Get it?  The Hot Flash Club is a bunch of overlapping feel-good stories about re-starting  your life just when it feels like it’s time to curl up and die and, while not especially illuminating, it’s a little like getting a great massage. It won’t solve our problems but it sure feels good.

Four women from totally different walks of life—flamboyant masseuse Shirley, nerdy MIT professor Marilyn, control-freak businesswoman Alice and lonely widow Faye—cross paths at a party for a mutual friend who is retiring. They discover that they urgently need to get their fears of aging off their chests, and who better than with total strangers who have just that one thing in common? After indulging in a frenzy of chocolate desserts, they decide to form the Hot Flash Club and meet on a weekly basis. Uptight Alice, a wealthy 62-year-old African-American divorcee and vice-president of a giant multinational corporation, is terrified she is about to lose her job to a young and ambitious up-and-comer at the firm. Smiley and optimistic Shirley, who went through three bad marriages, just had her jerk of a boyfriend walk out on her, and is convinced she’s stupid, nonetheless has a dream of starting a wellness retreat for struggling souls but not money. Faye’s only daughter is overwhelmed with her new baby, relies heavily on her mother, and is convinced her husband is having an affair, while Faye struggles with an empty house and artist’s block. Marilyn’s scientist son is engaged to a gorgeous socialite who Marilyn is convinced can’t possibly love her son and will break his heart.

The four women decide to take on and find an answer to eachother’s problems, with predictably funny, screwed-up but mostly satisfying consequences. These smart and sassy women come out of their shells and inspire each other to overcome their fears.  Makeovers, affairs, divorces, marriages, living out fantasies, sexual jokes—and, of course, chocolate–figure heavily in this book, and while Thayer is rather heavy-handed with every cliché in the book about what jerks men can be, she also weaves in a few good ones to keep us women ever hopeful that it’s not a total desert out there. All in all, light but fun reading for the hot flash set among us.