Ellie Winters’s mother is fond of the phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.” If this is true, I’m inclined to perch myself on Mrs. Winters’s lap when describing the novel in which her daughter is the heroine.
Pushing 30 is Whitney Gaskell’s debut novel, but the author fields a cast of well-worn chick-lit characters. Ellie Winters is a soon-to-be-30 “consummate Good Girl” who hates her paper-pushing job at a DC law firm and spends her days fantasizing about seeing her crush naked.
He’s Ted Langston, a polished 52-year-old news anchor who, predictably, finds Ellie’s ignorance of current affairs endearing. There’s also Ellie’s narcissistic, schizophrenic mother; her equally self-centered dog, Sally; and her friends, Harmony and Nina, the latter of whom surpasses Samantha of Sex and the City in sexual vulgarity.
Ellie’s big problem is that these supporting characters are anything but supportive. Her mother reminds her, “You know what happened to you in college when you were eating that greasy food all the time, and put on all that weight and your skin broke out. You didn’t have a boyfriend for two years.”
Nina and Harmony don’t share Ellie’s excitement about Ted—partly because they’re preoccupied with their own lives, partly because they’re wary of the age difference. And Ted doesn’t make Ellie feel any better about aging when he mistakes her for a decade older than she is.
Ellie’s bigger problem is her tiresome penchant for analogies: “as wimpy as Popeye pre-spinach”; “just like with a Band-Aid, it’s better to rip it off all at once”; “like a monster who’d just finished gleefully decapitating a nest of fuzzy baby bunnies.”
To be fair, I kept reading—albeit sheepishly—to see how the plot unfolded: Can Ted and Ellie reconcile themselves to their age gap? Will Ted get back with his ex-wife? Did Ellie really shrink to a size 8 after her diet of depression?
Pushing 30 is literature’s empty calorie. It’s not good for you and you’ll feel guilty reading it, but you might find yourself indulging anyway.