The Next Best Thing
At three years old, Ruth Saunders miraculously survives the car crash that takes her parents’ lives on the icy Massachusetts Turnpike. Her eccentric grandmother, who comes out of Florida retirement to care for young Ruth, nurtures her through years of surgeries, feeding her home-cooked meals, dispensing irreverent wisdom, and telling Ruth she’s beautiful, even though her scars will stay with her forever.
After college, Ruth pursues her dream of writing to Hollywood, heading west with her grandmother in tow, hoping to make it big in the world of TV. After years of failure and a badly broken heart, Ruth gets The Call—her show has been green-lit.
But Ruth’s happy ending is only the beginning, as she struggles with how television gets made: terrified (and terrifying) executives and actresses with their eyes on bigger prizes than Ruthie’s show. Add in an unrequited crush on the man who has been her mentor. Add to that her grandmother’s impending nuptials, and Ruth’s big break might just break her.
A rollicking ride on the Hollywood roller coaster, The Next Best Thing is a heartfelt story about a young woman searching for her own happily-ever-after in the land where dreams come true.
Molly Weiner Interviews Jennifer Weiner
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Reading Group Guide
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. What is the significance of swimming in The Next Best Thing? Why do you think it is such a cathartic activity for Ruth?
2. How does Ruth use humor to her advantage? What purpose does it serve her? What did you think about her involvement with Hellsmouth?
3. Throughout the novel, Ruth finds herself in situations where either she is disappointed by people involved in The Next Best Thing, or she knows she will be disappointing others. How does she handle these moments, and should she have handled any of them differently? What does Ruth mean when she says, “I could do it all as long as I felt like my toughness was in the service of something important; that I was protecting the essential heart of my story” (290)?
4. How does the novel depict male-female dynamics in Hollywood? For those people in positions of power, is their gender shown to be part of their success? Do you think that the outcome of The Next Best Thing would have been any see more