'Mini Shopaholic' by British best-seller Sophie Kinsella

(Thomas M Perkins)
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By Sarah Pekkanen
Wednesday, September 22, 2010


By Sophie Kinsella

Dial. 414 pp. $25

Faster than a swiping Visa, more powerful than a two-for-one coupon, able to buy complete wardrobes in a single sprint through the mall -- it's Shopaholic! Becky, star of the blockbuster series by British author Sophie Kinsella, is back, and she now has a sidekick, her 2-year-old daughter, Minnie.

Times have gotten tough for Becky, her stern-jawed husband, Luke Brandon, and wee Minnie: They've been forced to move in with Becky's parents while they search for a posh new home of their own. Becky has taken over the dining room to store her makeup, her father's study for her party dresses and the garage for her designer boots. As if that weren't enough, the pesky financial crisis crippling London means that Becky must tighten her (new! snakeskin!) belt.

But like the women before her who saved coupons for meat rations or painted stripes down the backs of their calves, Becky is steeling herself to persevere: She promises Luke that she'll wear every item in her wardrobe three times before buying anything new. (The fact that half the clothes in her wardrobe still have tags on them completely misses the point. Read the book's title, people!)

Becky, a bighearted, modern-day Lucy Ricardo, has her slapstick charms, and Kinsella clearly relishes the comedy. Yet the frothy fun turns unexpectedly sad during scenes starring Minnie, who spends her days being ferried to Starbucks, watching Disney videos and . . . shopping. Someone needs to introduce this tyke to a sandbox (but, for the love of God, remove her fab Baby Dior shoes first!).

Despite the fact that Minnie terrorizes shopping mall Santa Clauses, dinner guests and a short-lived nanny, it's clearly Becky who has the real problem. She works part time as a personal shopper to fund her addiction but still doesn't have a dime in her checking account, and her credit cards are straining their limits. Plus she has, um, challenges when it comes to telling the truth. Realizing that Becky has remained frozen in time despite marriage and motherhood is like driving past your favorite college bar and spotting your old roommate, knocking back dollar Buds and trying to flirt with the incoming freshmen. Everyone else has moved on, and it seems pathetic that Becky hasn't done the same.

By the end of the book, it will surprise no one that Becky's plans to create a spectacular surprise birthday party for Luke run into budgetary trouble, but make no mistake: Kinsella fans will charge this book on their MasterCards, add it to their Amazon accounts and pile it into bags at Barnes & Noble. After all, they've learned from a master.

Pekkanen is the author of the novel "The Opposite of Me."

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