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Literature
 
The Perfect Upper-Class Life Unravels
By Diana Whiteside

   
   
 
Oh the Glory of it All
 
Sean Wisley
Penguin
495 pages
$25.95 hardcover

 
   

I first heard about Oh the Glory of it All by Sean Wilsey while working in a bookstore in a wealthy San Francisco neighborhood. It was selling like crazy, which didn’t impress me since the store’s bestselling books were of the “chick-lit” variety (books about 30-something women shopping all day on Rodeo Drive and flirting with rich, 60-year-old married men). It wasn’t until an eccentric old rich lady started barking at me about how blah, blah, blah, she knew the San Francisco family the book was about and blah, blah, blah, she thought it was awful what they had done to their poor son, that I started to get curious.

It turns out the book is an incredibly funny and engaging coming-of-atge memoir by a man who grew up mired in San Francisco high-society drama. But you don’t have to live in San Francisco to enjoy this book—just be prepared to laugh as he describes the tragicomedy that was his upbringing.

Wilsey was born into a world most people would envy. He had a gorgeous, glamorous mother who held frequent lunch dates attended by the likes of Joan Baez, Gloria Steinem and Shirley Temple and a successful business-savvy father—all this under the roof of a penthouse apartment overlooking beautiful San Francisco. But at 10-years old, his parents divorced and he became increasingly disillusioned with this world.

The following drama would’ve fit easily into the plot-lines of any daytime soap opera. In a highly publicized and acrimonious divorce trial (which was even covered in the pages of The Enquirer), Sean’s mother Pat demanded and ultimately received a monthly alimony of $20,000—her initial figure was $33,000, which included $500 a month for flowers. Meanwhile, Sean’s father Al was caught up in a love triangle with Pat’s best friend, Dede, and romance author Danielle Steele.

Al ended up marrying Dede, who became something of an evil stepmother to Wilsey. Meanwhile, in her own self-obsessed way, Pat started a crusade to save the world by traveling all over it with a bunch of kids and discussing peace with various world leaders. With his mother consumed by her mission of peace and his father committed to a woman who treated him horribly, the author became a very troubled teen who was shuffled from one expensive boarding school to another until he ended up at a school for troubled youth in Italy. There, Wilsey finally dug himself out of delinquency and into a successful writing career.

Wilsey relates this tale with an easy, irresistible wit that makes you root for him the whole time and wish you could find that awful Dede and kicked her in the bum.

diana[at]saltshakermagazine.com

 

 
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