Cover image for The playgroup
The playgroup
Spencer, Nelsie.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
ix, 352 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Before she signed up for the mommy role, Ellie Fuller was a stand-up comic, a good best friend, and on her way to substantial success in the TV world. Then good-looking Peter came along, and she was quick to succumb. Marriage redefined her personal landscape with a vengeance, and with what now seems like super speed, she's become a constantly nursing, sleep-deprived, double-stroller pushing mother of two on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Ellie loves her life. Doesn't she?
She's about to find out.
Day One of pre-school for her daughter, Ahnika. As Ellie gathers with the other moms on the stately steps of Park Avenue Playgroup, she meets ice princess Missy Hanover. Missy is tall. Missy is tan. Missy is the kind of woman who looks gorgeous even in running clothes. And, to Ellie's surprise, Missy looks vaguely familiar. They must have met before. But where?
Missy decides that she and Ellie should be friends-close friends. As the school year progresses, Ellie finds herself pulled deeper, sometimes unwillingly, into Missy's Upper East Side world.
From the rarefied, moneyed land of Hermes scarves and elaborate birthday parties for three year-olds, into the hidden reaches of a married woman's mind and the secrets of Ellie's past, "The Playgroup" shows what really goes on when the kids are in school.

Author Notes

Nelsie Spencer moved to New York from Southern California in 1979 to study acting at The Neighborhood Playhouse. Her play, My Heart Belongs to Daddy , in which she co-starred and co-wrote with Laury Marker-Sacks, was lauded by critics throughout the country. In 1998 Nelsie started getting up before dawn (while her children slept) to work on an idea she had for a book. The Playgroup is her first novel. She is currently working on her second, a coming-of-age novel set in Southern California in the early 70's. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Spencer aims for edgy in a debut that tosses addiction and a steamy lesbian love affair into the standard metropolitan-mommy fiction mix. Ellie Fuller, a former stand-up comic and recovering bulimic, adores her sweet, libidinous husband, Peter, and their two darling children. But when the West Side Manhattan couple decide to enroll their three-year-old in an exclusive East Side playgroup, Ellie's seemingly perfect, post-12-step life begins to unravel. Initially feeling both "superior and intimidated" in the company of the glitzy playgroup mothers ("they all know each other and they all speak French"), Ellie becomes friends and then, improbably, lovers, with Missy Hanover, a beautiful heiress who maintains her irresistible self-possession through a full staff and an old-money prestige unavailable to Ellie's self-made husband. As Ellie spends more and more time with Missy, she lies to hide her bulimic past as well as her working-class background, alcoholic mother and incarcerated father. Spencer deftly chronicles Ellie's growing desperation as she deceives her lover and her husband, increasingly neglects her kids and struggles to resist her desires to binge and purge ("the toilet bowl was calling her-hungry, begging to be fed"). Though it's sure to be compared to The Nanny Diaries for its setting, subject and relentless class-consciousness, Spencer's sex-filled debut isn't as funny: there are smirk-worthy descriptions, but the cattiness grows wearisome. Spencer, like her protagonist, is a former stand-up comic, but the book feels more like a study of attraction, lies and self-destruction than a fun, light read. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Ellie Fuller is convinced that she just can't compare with the other moms at her daughter's posh new playgroup. She's in recovery from bulimia, still shaking off a bad breakup with a best friend, and still stung by her dysfunctional childhood. Ellie is thus grateful when Missy Hanover extends her hand in friendship on the first day. But when their friendship becomes a steamy affair, Ellie risks losing everything, including her husband, her children, and her health. Unlike other "mommy fiction" titles (e.g., Allison Pearson's I Don't Know How She Does It), this first novel by a former stand-up comic is only peripherally about motherhood, instead focusing on a woman caught in a manipulative game. Unfortunately, the narrative introductions to flashbacks are choppy and mostly fail to engage, and some readers will find the graphic language and explicit sex off-putting. Still, the author's comedic background comes shining through; the writing is funny, and Ellie's lines are delivered perfectly. Possibly suitable for larger public libraries.-Amy Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.