Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe may be Jenny Hollowell’s debut novel, but the precision and grace with which she tells the story of Birdie Baker, an aspiring actress in Los Angeles, makes Hollowell seem like a veteran.

When we first meet Birdie, she’s growing up in small-town Virginia, the only daughter of evangelical parents. On the outside, Birdie is following the path to a religious life, but for as long as she can remember, Birdie has dreamed of becoming someone else. At age 20, she marries a young elder brought home by her father, but two years later, she walks out on her pastor husband and her parents and hops on a bus to Los Angeles.

Now, nine years later, Birdie’s life in Hollywood isn’t exactly as she had hoped it would be. Her resume lists a handful of unmemorable roles in films and commercials, and her steadiest gig is as a body double for a spoiled, frivolous actress. Everyone in the industry tells Birdie that she’s got something—that she’s real. But Birdie has been pretending for so long that even she doesn’t know what’s real anymore. She’s trapped in a place somewhere between the life she abandoned and the life she desires, and the city of glitz and glam isn’t as magical as she had hoped.

Using detailed prose and short, anecdotal chapters, the author has created a psychological portrait of both an individual and a city. While Birdie is waging her own war against personal demons, Hollowell illustrates that Birdie is only one of the thousands of individuals who come to Hollywood with a dream and get torn apart trying to reach it. At once witty, comic and tragic, Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe throws the reader into the unglamorous side of Tinseltown for an engrossing read on the obsessive nature of celebrity.

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