Book Review: Limelight by Amy Poeppel

Cover art copyright of Atria/Emily Bestler Books

One of my bucket list items was to visit New York City, which I got to do a couple of years ago, at Christmastime no less! The city was magical, just as I’d imagined it would be. I, like all NYC lovers, have found myself thinking from time to time about what it would be like to live in the city. That is the premise of Ms. Poeppel’s sophomore novel, Limelight. In Limelight, we meet Allison, who has dreamed of living in Manhattan for years. When her husband, Michael, gets an incredible promotion at work, the couple decides to leave their lives in Dallas, Texas behind and move to Manhattan with their three kids and their cat. But things don’t go exactly as planned, resulting in a tangled mess of job hunting, school hunting, apartment adjustments, hormonal teenagers, celebrity sightings, and one spoiled young pop star.

I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Poeppel’s debut novel, Small Admissions, about the inner workings of a private school in New York City. Ms. Poeppel clearly has a lot of experience with the Big Apple and breaks down the glitz and glamor to show the reality beneath the surface beautifully. I had high hopes for her second novel, and she didn’t disappoint.

Overall, I found Limelight to be an entertaining read. Allison and her family were well-developed characters, particularly her teenage daughter, Charlotte. Both Allison and Charlotte surprised me throughout the book. I love it when characters surprise me!

After moving to Manhattan, Allison finds that her dream of living in New York City might not turn out exactly like she’d planned. Ms. Poeppel doesn’t portray living in Manhattan in a negative way, just a realistic way. She peels back the shiny red skin of the Big Apple to reveal what lies beneath the surface: sweet spots, rotten patches, and all.

I did love the shout-out to Humans of New York in the novel – I love their posts! I also loved Ms. Poeppel’s cast of the play Limelight in the novel. I’m a big fan of Kevin Kline and Melissa McCarthy myself!

Let me assure you that I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to readers who enjoy reading about NYC, celebrity lifestyle, and family dynamics.

***Fair Warning! Spoilers Ahead!***

At this point, I have to warn anyone who doesn’t want spoilers to stop reading now. Please come back and visit this post after you’ve read the book. I usually don’t post any spoilers in my reviews, but I don’t feel that I can fully review this novel without including my reaction to a few specific parts of the book.

First, my initial reaction to Allison sort of latching onto Carter and then starting to work for him was that it felt unrealistic. Why would this adult, well-educated woman insert herself into the life and affairs of a spoiled, bratty teenager? But as I kept reading and got to know Allison’s and Carter’s characters better, it felt more natural. Allison was a mom and a teacher who felt like she had failed or was failing at both. She was out of work, bored, and naturally curious after encountering this major celebrity. I also think her “mom instinct” kicked in upon finding Carter in such rough shape and she genuinely wanted to know that he was okay.

Second, Michael’s co-worker, Cassandra. She gets engaged near the beginning of the book, which closes Allison’s jealousy issues with her. But then her character just drops from the story entirely. I know she’s just a minor character who didn’t belong in much of the story as it centered around Allison and Carter. But I think she could have shown up at the end with her fiancé. They might have asked Allison for tickets to Limelight, just to bring her part full circle. It’s just a thought I had. I don’t like it when characters, even minor characters, just disappear from a story, unless they get killed off of course.

Third, I thought it was unbelievable that Carter went from struggling so badly with his lines to pulling off a great performance. With the way he was struggling to make sense of the words during rehearsals, I wondered if he had dyslexia or something. Perhaps his lines were fed to him through an ear piece and we, like Allison and the audience, weren’t meant to know that. But still, it seemed a little off that he suddenly pulled it together.

And last, the ending. I thought the ending was perfect. The scene at the airport was true to Allison and Carter’s characters and gave a hint at the happily ever after I always hope for but didn’t feel would be realistic in this story. I’m glad that Charlotte and Carter stayed just friends.

So there you have it. I really enjoyed reading this book and getting lost in the world of Manhattan and Broadway with Allison. If you like stories involving New York, celebrities, Broadway, or family dynamics, then you’ll likely enjoy this book.

I received an advance reader copy from Atria/ Emily Bestler Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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