For those of us who have only been to Los Angeles to visit Disneyland—and whose main source of information about the City of Angels is supermarket tabloids—it seems a mysterious and slightly bizarre place with a tan, thin and vacuously blonde population.

While Maria Semple's provocative, searingly funny portrait of life in La La Land in This One Is Mine does little to change the city's image, it does make for a surprising and often hilarious debut novel about happiness and consequences.

Violet Parry was a successful television writer until she met her husband, career-obsessed rock band manager David, and traded in her job for a mansion and a baby. Violet now spends her days aimlessly roaming Beverly Hills, buying things she doesn't need or want while her baby is home with the nanny. On one such pointless trip, she accidentally walks into a men's bathroom and finds Teddy Reyes, a down-on-his-luck bass player who "had blood-shot eyes and lint in his hair. It was hard to tell if it was full of gel or in need of a shampoo. His clothes smelled like a Goodwill."

Violet finds herself inexplicably drawn to Teddy, a recovering addict who is everything her husband isn't—spontaneous, funny and unpredictable. She begins a relationship with him that changes everything for her, her husband and their entire family.

A onetime Los Angeles resident herself, Semple wrote for TV sitcoms including "Mad About You" and "Ellen." She has a wholly original voice and deftly infuses humor into This One Is Mine (you'll laugh out loud at the sayings on the nanny's secondhand T-shirts) while capturing the bittersweet moments of motherhood and a marriage teetering on the edge. The result is a novel that is both entertaining and unexpected—a little bit like L.A. itself.

Amy Scribner writes from Olympia, Washington.

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