There are some weeks when J is at work late (or out of town), and my evening activities are ‘based upon availability’ of a sitter for the kids. Often these nights end with me whining about missing an event and like most fish tales, ‘the one who got away’ gets bigger and better with each retelling (It was her ONLY New England appearance! This is THE book of the season!, etc.)
Then there are the days when the stars align … last Wednesday was one of those nights! I hit all the green lights as I drove to the train station, an inbound train was waiting for me, and the dark clouds held off. Although I can take no credit for the traffic lights or train schedule, I’m confident that slipping my paperback out of my purse and replacing it with an umbrella helped ward off the rain (and made for good people watching on the train, since I didn’t have my usual diversion).
The event was held at The Liberty Hotel in Boston; the hotel name itself is not the only ironic name – meet your friends for drinks at Alibi, dine at Clink, or enjoy a private reception in the beautifully landscaped courtyard (the former exercise yard, still called “the Yard”). That’s right, The Liberty Hotel is the former Boston City Jail. Closed in 1990, with renovations beginning in the early 2000s, the hotel is now part of “The Leading Hotels of the World” collection, a luxury property with outstanding services and amenities. Preservationists retained exposed brick and wrought iron railings from the original building, keeping the building’s history while updating it for today’s traveler.
Alix Strauss’ event was held upstairs in one of the suites overlooking Boston and the Charles River. It was a lovely intimate affair and I enjoyed talking with the author, friends and family, the Liberty’s GM and PR director, and other guests, including Marie, the Boston Bibliophile and her husband. I was able to joke with Marie “what are we doing next Wednesday?!”, as we had met the previous week to view To Kill a Mockingbird at the Brattle Theater (sadly, no plans for this week!).
Alix knows how to throw a party! The bar offered several drinks based on characters from Based Upon Availability. Isn’t that clever?! It was a great sneak peek into the personalities Alix would introduce when she read from her novel.
And she did read … after about an hour of mixing and mingling, Alix took the center of the room and shared a bit about her recently published novel. The excerpt she read introduced us to Morgan, the (fictional) manager of the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, her mother (and a gaggle of her mother’s friends), and several of the hotel guests. Alix’s writing is sharply observant and witty … like the author herself! After she read, she took questions from the room, and had us laughing (yes, LOL!) with her quick humor. She is so warm and personable, I could have listened to her talk for another hour!
Here’s the back-of-the-book synopsis, showing us that Alix Strauss is about to share what might go on behind closed doors at any shi-shi hotel:
… readers are drawn into the lives of eight seemingly ordinary women who pass through Manhattan’s swanky Four Seasons Hotel. While offering sanctuary to some, solace to others, the hotel captures their darkest moments as they grapple with family, sex, power, love, and death.
Trish obsesses over her best friend’s wedding and dramatic weight loss. Robin wants revenge after a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her older sister. Anne is single, lonely, and suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Drug-addicted rock star Louise needs to dry out. Southerner turned wannabe Manhattanite Franny is envious of her neighbors’ lives. Sheila wants to punish her boyfriend for returning to his wife. Ellen so desperately wants children that she insists she’s pregnant to her disbelieving husband. And Morgan, the hotel manager—haunted by the memory of her dead sister—is the thread that weaves these women’s lives together.
The reading focused on Morgan, the hotel manager, and some of her unexpected daily activities … wow, the next time I check-in to a hotel, I’ll be wondering about what goes on behind the reception desk! I’ll be bringing this novel on vacation with me later this summer, in the meantime, check out some of the reviews of Based Upon Availability from its recent TLC Book Tour.
Oh, and since I have a knack for catching people mid-blink, I’m unable to share the pics I took of Alix at the event. This photo is from her website, where you can learn more about the author, her books, and upcoming events.
Thanks to Alix Strauss and the Rachel Moniz at The Liberty Hotel (who swears she’s nothing like Morgan in the novel!) for a lovely evening.
Is Based Upon Availability on your summer reading list? Does this type of fictional (or maybe not-so-fictional?!) exposé make you wonder about behind-the-scenes in hotels, restaurants, etc.? And, have you ever visited jail in the name of research?