Cover image for The perfect Elizabeth : a tale of two sisters
The perfect Elizabeth : a tale of two sisters
Schmais, Libby.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
228 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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An exploration of the relationship between two sisters--Liza, a poet in search of a career beyond dog-walking, and Bette, a teacher altogether too absorbed in her dissertaion--offers a modern-day look at love, parents, infidelity, and life.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Liza wakes up on her thirty-second birthday completely overwhelmed with her lack of life accomplishments. She grudgingly toils as a legal secretary, is paranoid about her relationship with a commitment-phobic actor, and frets about her sister, Bette. The cheating actor confirms her fears; Liza dives headfirst into depression, then follows Bette to Los Angeles, where the best she can do is get a job cleaning pools. As she strives unsuccessfully to drink and eat her sorrows away, odd quirks of fate start to turn her life around. The actor declares his love, and someone wants to turn her children's novel into a cartoon. Schmais examines the pitfalls of our societal goal of "having it all" through the sensibilities of her witty if self-pitying heroine and a set of pleasingly eccentric auxiliary characters. And so accurately does she pinpoint and elaborate on Liza's disappointments, Schmais may cause readers to groan in dismay over their own lives even though Liza's story has a happy ending. --Deborah Rysso

Publisher's Weekly Review

Composed of crisp, crumpet-sized snapshots, Schmais's winning romantic comedy tells the story of 30-something New York City sisters Eliza and Bette Ferber, who, when viewed as a composite, become the eponymously perfect Elizabeth. Eliza, otherwise known as Liza, a legal secretary who writes poetry on the side, has grown tired of her monotonous job and the commitment-phobic attitude of her actor boyfriend, Gregor. Meanwhile, academic-minded Bette has immersed herself in her dissertation on comfort foods in the English novel. Bette has been burned once already, and she prefers the nonthreatening world of Barbara Pym to real-life love. Worried that Bette will become like one of the lonely characters in the books she reads, Eliza embarks the duo on a round of singles parties and pilgrimages to a laptop-toting Jewish matchmaker in Queens. Astoundingly, the sisters' wildest dreams come true: Bette meets a fabulous man named Lawrence who likes Jane Austen and hates roller blades, while Liza quits her job and moves in with Gregor. But although though everything Liza thought she wanted is falling into place, she still can't relax. Will walking some dogs, taking up astrology, waitressing in a coffee shop, taking dance classes, going to L.A. or writing a children's story help? Schmais has a tendency to repeat facts as if she doesn't trust the reader to have paid sufficient attention the first time, but that is her only misstep in what is otherwise a breezy yet thoughtful debut. The Ferber sisters have a charming propensity for viewing the world through Masterpiece Theatre-tinted glasses, and readers will enjoy following their attempts to stop shooting for perfection and to learn to accept plain old happiness. Agent, Neeti Madan. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This absorbing first novel by a medical librarian is a contemporary Sense and Sensibility set in Manhattan and Southern California. A comedy of manners complete with happy ending, the book features sisters Liza and Bette, five years apart, who notice that their names are both diminutives of Elizabeth. Thirtyish New Yorker Liza, so far a failure at finding a career, quits her job as a legal secretary when her boss tells her that she must vacuum the office floor. She takes up dog-walking, moves in with a soap opera actor, and conceives a children's book plot that seals her success as a television writer. Meanwhile, she's determined to interest her scholarly older sister in a perfect catchDa kind, handsome, wealthy architect from the West Coast. The course of love rarely runs smoothly, even with seemingly perfect boyfriends. The author cleverly satirizes the cold rationality of Sixties radicals, the ruthlessness of type-A supervisors, and the luxuriously vapid lifestyle of Bette as a Hollywood homemaker. Even readers who have nothing in common with the sisters will get plenty of laughs. Recommended for most public libraries.DJoyce Smothers, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Freehold, N.J. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.