Cover image for Pen pals
Pen pals
Goldsmith, Olivia.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton, 2002.
Physical Description:
359 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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The bestselling author of The First Wives Club delivers her best revenge novel to date when Jennifer, a major player on Wall Street, takes the fall when her boss is caught playing fast and loose on the SEC. Landing in Jennings Correctional Facility for Women, she waits in vain for the rescue she was promised.

Author Notes

Author Olivia Goldsmith was born Randy Goldfield in Dumont, New Jersey in 1949. She attended New York University and became one of the first partners at the management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton in New York. After she divorced her husband, she moved to London, changed her legal name to Justine Rendal, and became a writer.

Her 1992 debut novel, "The First Wives Club" became a best-seller and was made into a movie in 1996. In her stories, there's a transformation of the main character and, according to Goldsmith, "In the Olivian universe, everybody gets what they deserve." Besides novels, she wrote articles for The New York Times and Cosmopolitan and wrote children's books under the name Justine Rendal. She received the Woman of Vision Award in 1997. She died from complications related to anesthesia on January 15, 2004 at the age of 54

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

When it comes to women rising like phoenixes from scorn to triumph, no one beats Goldsmith. It all started with The First Wives Club (1992), in which three sassy ex-wives conspired to wreak revenge on their two-timing ex-husbands. And although Pen Pals begins in a similarly upscale world, Goldsmith eventually takes us to a completely different place. It all starts with Jennifer Spencer, a rising star on Wall Street who is working at a prestigious firm and engaged to a brilliant lawyer. To help protect her trusted mentor-boss from exposure, Jennifer agrees to be the point person in an SEC investigation. After everything goes awry, Jennifer finds herself shackled in Jennings, a women's prison not at all like the country-club, white-collar crime camp she envisioned. Warden Gwen Harding (irreverently called Warden G. Harding by the inmates) both dreads and revels in the prospect of dealing with Princess Jennifer. Gwen decides to throw her in with Movita, the leader of a group of tough women done wrong--all at the hands of men, of course. Gwen and Movita are surprised to find that beneath Jennifer's fair skin is a woman of substance. The path from the despair of prison life to female conquest is glorious and satisfying without being man-hating; the cast of characters perfectly blends women from all walks of life, joined by their common goal. They are women, here them roar. --Mary Frances Wilkens

Publisher's Weekly Review

An old hand at the hell-hath-no-fury revenge novel, Goldsmith sets her latest humorous caper in an unlikely location behind bars. When "Wall Street showboater" Jennifer Spencer agreed to "take the heat" for her boss's insider trading, she thought at worst she'd be sent to some country club prison for white collar ladies. At the very least, Tom Branson, "the sharpest (and most handsome) young counsel on the Street" (as well as her "beloved fiance") would arrange for special treatment and an expedited appeal that would have her back in her posh office within days. But once the gate is locked at Jennings Correctional Facility, Jennifer realizes that her boss, and somehow even Tom, have abandoned her to serve the full three to five years in a "battleship pink" hellhole. In earlier novels, Goldsmith (The First Wives Club, etc.) embraced her heroines' consumerism with wicked glee; here, she strains to teach Jennifer "values, co-operation, and probably some humility" at the hands of an implausibly benevolent warden and some noble, wholesome inmates. Assigned to the "crew" of Movita Watson, the sassy "queen bee" of Jennings, Jennifer is persuaded to use her Wall Street smarts to help fight the privatization of Jennings and get back at the "yellow rat bastards" who put her there. The revenge scheme is amusingly intricate, but it doesn't jibe with the desperate, tragic air of the prison setting or the frequent didactic speeches about rehabilitation. Even Goldsmith's famous ear for dishy girl talk is lacking here, as the inmates (particularly Movita) speak a highfalutin jailhouse jive that wavers dangerously in tone. After Diana Brooks aided the prosecution at the Sotheby's trial, it's no longer funny when a woman is urged to take the rap for her boss. And does anybody still think Wall Street can come to the rescue? (Feb.) Forecast: Goldsmith's fans may be briefly amused by the idea of one of her pampered protagonists in prison but will they ante up to read about ladies in jumpsuits? (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

It takes Goldsmith's heroine quite a bit of adversity and misfortune to find out what really matters in life. Rich and beautiful, spoiled and self-absorbed, Jennifer Spencer is on her way to prison, convicted of insider trading. Expecting her boyfriend to handle her appeal quickly and assure her release, Jennifer is rudely awakened by his betrayal, as well as by the harsh realities of life in a female correctional facility. The story is at once hilariously funny and sharply poignant. Goldsmith (The First Wives Club) alternates chapter viewpoints among various women serving their prison sentences, each of whom tells a wretched and woeful narrative. Goldsmith, known for somewhat outrageous plot lines, here allows Jennifer to hatch a dubious scheme for revenge. She manages to get a guard fired, help establish a host of prison reforms, and secure pardons for several of her fellow cellmates. The book is written with such oblivious good humor and spunk that it's hard to find fault with Goldsmith's taking serious social problems, including prison reform, sexual harassment, and white-collar crime, and wrapping them up in a neatly packaged fairy-tale ending. Given Goldsmith's popularity, all public libraries should expect demand and purchase accordingly. Margaret Hanes, Sterling Heights P.L., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.