Meet Tabitha Gray, a delusional girl from Topanga, California, who redefines what it means to be a truly hopeless romantic. Tabby suffers from an aggressive strain of cock-eyed optimism – no amount of failure, embarrassment or humiliation can dent her fierce belief that real, true, lasting love is just around the corner.
Where most people think, fantasize and dream, Tabby says, feels and does. Whether waiting in her lingerie for Harrison Ford to open the door of his hotel room; declaring her love, aged nine, for Ernesto the gardener; encountering Al Pacino in a Russian bathhouse; seeking passion with a blind man on the advice of a wise old woman with dementia at her grandmother’s home for the elderly; or sending intimate photos to a random sexter with an apparently charming dick, Tabby refuses to be crushed by her many misadventures. She has to keep believing, because if she gives up, what then? Ill-advisedly armed with the words of Dorothy Parker, Tabby knows that her own ferocious optimism is the only thing keeping her heart-sore, wine-swilling mother and cynical, single-mum sister from giving up on love altogether. She is their only hope. If Tabby can find love, then they too will believe…
In this warmly witty debut novel, Sophie Kipner takes a satirical look at the extremity of romantic desperation, and pays wry tribute to the deep human need to keep on heroically searching for love despite our manifold absurdities.
I’m not going to lie; I've always been a bit of a horny kid, climbing onto anything around me with an edge. For the longest time, I thought my heart was located between my legs because it beat and pulsed so much. My mother would have to physically rip me off couch corners and away from Jacuzzi jets when guests would come around for dinner.
My mother’s always been quite wild and whimsical, but after my dad decided our house was too small for him -when I was about six and my sister nine – she formed a panicked edge. Instead of admitting I’d learned my ways from her, she would self-consciously laugh it off, pretending she didn't get it. “I don’t know where she comes from!” she would say to a slew of new friends, new suitors, with chronically wine-stained teeth as she’d pry me off the furniture. Inevitably, we'd fall down together, our bottoms bouncing across the floor like gently skipping pebbles across a placid lake. In front of a room full of loosened jaws, she'd get up swiftly, like it was nothing but some dust on her shoulder, fluff her black bob, give me a wink, and return to the party, seemingly unscathed.
And that party side of her, that was my favorite. That was when she was most alive. When she was on, she was on full blast. Hot or cold, never lukewarm. She told jokes everyone laughed at and could hold any room with a story. You should hear some of her stories. If she were around someone whom she thought might be able to change her life, her laughing would become increasingly robust. It would tear through walls, that laugh, and she’d use it to cleverly string together awkward silences. This was just one of many ways she knew how to fill gaps. I'd watch her mingle and work the room, throwing herself over eligible men. “Twilda, baby,” they’d say as she’d corral them with her wit and charisma, her irrefutable charm. But this chameleonic flip-flopping was normal. This was Los Angeles.
Crammed into a tiny, busy house, my sister Brenda and I grew up under my mother’s loosely focused eye in Topanga, a tree-house kind of town nestled in the Santa Monica mountains where names like Ocean and Summer are not cool; they’re ordinary. I always saw my mother as this colorfully dressed woman who, after one too many burns, wore an ill-fitting black cloak over her outfit, subduing her. You see, after my dad left, she never stopped moving and that franticness –paired with her staple glass of red wine – made her especially slippery. You knew underneath she was still a modern art painting, a unicorn, but you didn’t know when it would show, so you’d wait on edge as she buoyed between hope and depression. Maybe that was her way of teaching me how to keep a man on his toes.
Contingent upon the crowd, she would vacillate between being sexually free-spirited and neurotically concerned about upholding appearances. On one hand, she’d be too aware of herself and on the other she’d encourage us to be expressive and open and comfortable with our bodies, not caring what anyone else would think. Unfortunately, my sister was reserved and I took it too far (I loved being naked and would take my clothes off everywhere I went: supermarkets, toy stores, zoos, even monasteries when my mother thought she was a Buddhist). So depending on her mood, her reaction to our polar-opposite behavior either impressed or infuriated her. But either way, she never told me to stop. I guess we’re all like that. We're all a bit fickle.
Sure, she was messy but messy was interesting. At the end of the night, when everyone had left, she’d wake me up and lead me to the empty living room, light an American Spirit cigarette and start swaying to Nina Simone and Sam Cooke.
“Why’d everyone leave?” I’d ask, but the wine tipping out of her glass would usually distract me as she waved it through the air. She’d move silently through the room, and I’d copy her from a few steps behind. I spent many nights like this, following her trail of moonlit smoke and dancing in her wake.
“Everyone’s just so Goddamn boring!” she’d always say when no one stayed.
“Not me, though, right?” I’d ask, just to be sure, hips swaying, finding a groove.
“You could never be boring,” she’d say sweetly. “You’re my baby.” The red wine would always leave a little mark on either side of her mouth, like baby horns. I loved them so much that I even missed them when they’d disappear. Thankfully, she’d never be without them for too long.
My mother became fanatical about Dorothy Parker just before my eleventh birthday and would read her to us in bed. The queen of emotional shrewdness and intelligence had eventually found my mother; the words seducing her with their shared distrust and adoration of love. They soon became her bible. Dorothy’s poems took the place of Goodnight, Moon and I’d often go to bed confused. Most kids got The Tale of Peter Rabbit but I was sent to sleep with lines that would stick to my insides like gum, the most glutinous being: “Be the one to love the less.” Talk about a goodnight story. So, like we were told of gum, Dorothy’s wisdom through my mother’s voice would grow inside me into a tree. Leaves would fall but the roots would dig deeper, grasping firmly.
Do you have any Tabitha moments? I do! (Well, of course I do.) I always know, for example, that I've been single for too long when a doctor's visit feels good or when I start to leave small, harmless metal objects in my pockets at the airport, just to get frisked. I mean, don't you? ;) One of my favorite reviews of the book so far has been that my protagonist Tabitha "at once makes…
Apologies for the tardy update but I’m still spinning with excitement over the incredible launch, signing tour, and overall reception of The Optimist since its publication just over a month ago! Hopefully all of you have received your copies of it by now. I’ve been seeing lots of you tag it on social media and it’s been such a thrill.
I wanted to thank many of you for coming…
Hello again, Optimists!
Thrilled to share the cover of The Optimist with you! Hope you like it as much as we do. And also beyond excited to announce that it has been optioned by Ugly Duckling Films to be developed for TV!
Production is moving forward and on schedule. Next up is promo! Flash mob on the tube of 50 people reading The Optimist and laughing in unison? Plastering stickers of the…
Hello Wonderful Supporters and Friends,
To keep you all up to date as promised, I've just finished editing "The Optimist" with my most wonderful editor, Rachael Kerr, and it is now in the hands of production! I'm working on chapter head illustrations at the moment, and have just had the first round of book cover options come through, all of which I'm very excited to share with you when ready!…
Hello to my wonderful friends, family, book enthusiasts and future owners of THE OPTIMIST!
Because of your support, THE OPTIMIST is going to be published! WOOHOO! Thank you to each and every one of you who made this happen! With your pledges, the once far-removed dream of getting my novel out into the world and into the hands of readers is now a reality, and I couldn't be more grateful and excited…
These people are helping to fund The Optimist.