One-Minute Book Reviews

June 27, 2007

Were Holly Peterson’s Cringe-Inducing Sex Scenes Too Much for Newsweek and ABC?

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Where to find the sex scenes in The Manny that Newsweek and ABC won’t show you in their excerpts … the page numbers for the good parts

Why didn’t Newsweek and ABC include any of Holly Peterson’s cringe-inducing sex scenes in The Manny in their online excerpts from the novel? Were their Web editors squeamish about running phrases like “Now she was on her knees” and “like a fire hose”? Were the editors trying to avoid embarrassing the author, a Newsweek contributing editor and former ABC News producer? Or did the publisher of the novel decide not to offer them the passages and hold out for, say, Sixty Minutes?

As noted in yesterday’s review of The Manny, Peterson’s sex scenes are irreproducible on a site with links from public libraries. But that doesn’t have to stop you from checking them out at a bookstore.

Here are the places in Peterson’s new novel about a male nanny where you can find the scenes that Newsweek and ABC don’t show you in their excerpts:

If you believe novelists should remember America’s firefighters even when writing about adulterous sex in a linen closet …
See page 167, the part that begins with “Now she was on her knees …” and ends with “like a fire hose in her expensive mouth.”

If you prefer sex scenes that remind you of the Discovery Channel …
See page 288, especially the line: “He was munching furiously on his prey, like an African lion with a freshly caught zebra.” Guess what part of the body the “prey” is.

If you get undressed in weird ways, too ..
See page 333, including this scene that takes place in bed: “Then he rested his head on his elbow and started unbuttoning my shirt … He pulled my arms in the air and peeled off my shirt.” Wait a minute, you’re probably thinking. If the shirt had buttons, why did he pull her arms in the air? Isn’t that how you would take off a T-shirt? If the guy was dying for sex, wouldn’t he just slip the shirt off her shoulders? Was it maybe a polo or other shirt with only a few buttons? If so, why didn’t Peterson say so instead of always leaving you scratching you head about what’s going on in these sex scenes? Sorry, but if you have to ask, you clearly don’t run with the Park Avenue elite who are the focus of The Manny. I don’t get it, either, but this seems to be another of those Fitzgeraldian examples of how the rich are different. As the woman in the scene says later, “It was never like this with anyone.” Definitely not.

A review of The Manny and a Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guide to the novel were posted on One-Minute Book Reviews on June 26, 2007 I can’t link directly to the Newsweek and ABC excerpts, but you can find the same excerpt at Click on the links for The Manny on the Random House home page, then click on “Read an excerpt.” Holly Peterson has a page on My Space ( that you can find by going to and searching for “hollypetersonthemanny.”

Janice Harayda is an award-winning critic who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of the Plain Dealer and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle. She administers the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books, handed out annually on March 15 . The top three awards in this year’s Delete Key competition went Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s ChildrenFor One More Day (first runner-up), Mitch Albom’s For One More Day (second runner-up) and Danielle Steel’s Toxic Bachelors (grand prize winner). Submit your nominations for a special beach books edition of the Delete Key Awards, to be announced later this summer, by leaving a comment on One-Minute Book Reviews.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 26, 2007

Robin McGraw’s Faith in Herself

Dr. Phil’s wife writes about her $50,000 Mercedes, her crystal chandeliers, and those tabloid rumors

[Note: I picked up Inside My Heart along with Love Smart, reviewed on this site on Feb. 8, planning to do a dual review. The books were so different I decided to do this one separately.]

Inside My Heart: Choosing to Live With Passion and Purpose. By Robin McGraw. Nelson, 223 pp., $24.99.

By Janice Harayda

Robin McGraw devotes four pages of Inside My Heart to a vasectomy reversal that her husband had without telling her – an incident that included, as she puts it, “fabricating” a cover story for his whereabouts during the surgery. This is by far the most revealing anecdote in her memoir of her marriage to Dr. Phil McGraw. What would her husband say if a man on his talk show confessed to doing the same thing?

McGraw says that she wrote Inside My Heart to get female readers excited about becoming “the woman that God created you to be,” a process that involves learning to stand up for themselves as she says she has done. Presumably to help them get “excited,” she writes about her $50,000 Mercedes, her “Italian Renaissance style” home with its “mosaic floors and crystal chandeliers” and her “black suede bomber jacket” that her husband gave her for Christmas. She says little about her day-to-day spiritual practices and struggles beyond that she gives thanks each morning for how “God has blessed” her.

Although Inside My Heart comes from a publisher of Christian books, God comes across in it as a generic figure with a goody bag that always has something for McGraw. So it’s hard to say who the target audience is. Inside My Heart may offend evangelicals with its glib materialism and lack of references to Jesus and the Bible. But it’s so shallow it has little to offer others, including people who enjoy good celebrity memoirs. Perhaps it’s is aimed partly at all those tabloid readers who wonder if there’s truth to the rumors that its author has been so lonely in Los Angeles, she went door-to-door trying to find someone to play bunco with her? If so, let the record show that McGraw says the stories about the dice game are false. “I had never even heard of it,” she says, “let alone played it.”

Best line: McGraw was startled when she first learned of her husband’s vasectomy reversal: “And then I took a good look at him and saw that he had a bulge under his trousers from a bandage and icepack.”

Worst line: At times McGraw slips into her husband’s nasty, hectoring tone. An example occurs when she urges people to have colonoscopies: “If you’re over fifty and haven’t had one done because you’re too squeamish to deal with it, stop acting like a baby and go have one.”

Consider reading instead: Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings of Sue Monk Kidd, by Sue Monk Kidd. A review is archived in the “Essays and Reviews” category on this site.

Published: September 2006

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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