Discover: A reissue of a smart early-’90s-era comedy of manners about familial, romantic and Hollywood entanglements.

Shirl, the widowed matriarch of the FitzHenry family, has undergone brain surgery following a freak accident involving a ceiling fan. Amid the trauma, Mimi–Shirl’s aspiring-screenwriter daughter–tracks down her long-lost sister, Mouse, a documentary filmmaker flitting around Africa, who hasn’t been home in 16 years. Mouse soon arrives in Los Angeles with her longtime British beau and work partner, Tony Cheatham, whom Shirl and Mimi assume is Mouse’s fiancĂ©. Afraid to disappoint her infirm mother, Mouse runs with the marriage story, even though she and Tony have a sparring, contentious relationship. But as Mouse assimilates into life in L.A., the past is unearthed and old jealousies and sibling rivalries are soon resurrected.

Life becomes even more complicated when an old flame approaches Mouse and the two begin to film a behind-the-scenes documentary called Wedding March–a sort of reality show long before such programs became commonplace–that depicts the months leading up to Mouse’s impending nuptials. Tony, oblivious, is soon swept up with the lure of Hollywood, and his screenplay, which offers intimate details of their relationship (without Mouse’s knowledge), is suddenly green-lit. The couple’s separate agendas, along with Mimi’s romantic woes, cleverly build to a social satire of farcical proportions.

Karen Karbo’s story is timeless, and her writing is seamless. She is a keen, wry observer of the hazards of Hollywood and marriage and the fraught relationships between lovers, mothers and daughters and sisters. Filled with sharp characterizations and laugh-out-loud scenes, The Diamond Lane (first published in 1991) proves that, in the right literary hands, the comedic absurdities of life never go out of style. —Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines.

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