book review: Sammy’s House

People might think that Vice-President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore lacks a sense of humor, but the same certainly cannot be said for his daughter Kristen. A Harvard University alumna and former editor of the renowned, male-dominated Harvard Lampoon [other notable alums include John Updike, Conan O’Brien and The Office ’s BJ Novak]; Gore went on to write for Futurama and Saturday Night Live. She and indie director David O. Russell [Flirting with Disaster] wrote a politically charged script called Nailed which should be out in 2008.

In the follow-up to Sammy’s Hill, Samantha “Sammy” Joyce has made it through the campaign and her boyfriend’s betrayal and now works as health care policy advisor to Vice-President Robert Gray. Sammy has been dating this great guy for two years and feels ready for that proposal. But is she really? She likes her apartment, small as it is and her roommate. She likes her life the way that it is and with the administration’s ear, Sammy’s poised for big things in this administration. Despite her neurotic moments, she’s smart, focused and loyal which is exactly what any elected official desires from staff members. Sammy’s seemingly stable relationship with Washington Post reporter Charlie and focus on her projects for the vice-president makes things a bit more serious [but Sammy still knows when to have some fun].

At a Rose Garden celebration, Sammy happens upon a little secret President Wye has been keeping—he’s drinking. Again. And not just here and there but at 10 a.m. before an event! The fact that the president’s father is dying of Alzheimer’s disease makes Sammy stay mum until things start to get too out of hand. She lets it slip to the Vice-President and then gets herself involved in a huge situation that might not be able to be kept hidden for long before the President’s detractors use it to take him out.

With intricate particulars about the White House, Gore makes the reader feel like an insider. Sammy is quirky as ever and the book has both quirky and funny moments. From a health care exploratory mission in India where Sammy rides a camel to going on a “date” to a State dinner with an arrogant A-list actor to obsessing that her boyfriend [who has relocated to the Post’s New York office], Sammy tries to keep from having a meltdown. She dotes on a fighting fish name Cal Ripkin Jr., makes frequent calls to her telemarketer friend Zelda [“a great listener”], has “second dinners” [aka late-night snacks that happen to be full meals] with her roommate and gets daily reminders of special occasions on her Blackberry, such as the day that George Eliot was revealed to be a woman—she gave her boyfriend a book on famous pseudonyms.

30-year-old Gore has a wicked sense of humor, sharp insight and keen observations to share through this lovable Hill staffer she created.

Readers will route for Sammy as she navigates her love life and cutthroat Washington where Sammy knows firsthand that the most innocuous event can be blown out of proportion.

Gore also makes her sophomore novel all the better by infusing detailed information about how the Executive and Legislative branches work. The twisting storyline along with Sammy’s little foibles and romantic mishaps with her boyfriend makes Sammy’s House a fantastic escape.

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