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Review by John Gabree
Shayna Pearl Fine is a 23-year-old virgin still living at home in the "pish-posh" suburban paradise of Hampstead, near Montreal. Describing herself as a Jewish Princess, Shayna (it means "very nice") Pearl longs for a Prince Charming to rescue her, preferably one who looks like the movie star her mother disdainfully refers to as Kristofferson Kristofferson.
Shayna Pearl is being wooed by a very rich, very loyal, very fat businessman named Stanley Drabkin. She has tried to love Stanley, but despite enticements such as an engagement diamond so big it threatens to dislocate her shoulder, she hasn't been able to reconcile herself to a life of Ring Around the Collar and Socks That Don't Cling. Shayna Pearl dreams of bagging her job as Chief Schlock Processor and Dribble Writer at the Cote Saint Luc Weekly Register for the more romantic occupation of screenplay writer in California.
Her salvation appears in the form of Peter Simon Freeman, a shaggy-haired rock musician to who she surrenders her virginity in a display of passion and skill acquired from careful observation of her more experienced girlfriend, JoAnn. Unfortunately, as the song says, dreams are better slept upon than lived, and Peter turns out to be a disappointment, as does anyone who is expected to fulfill another's adolescent fantasies. Shayna is left to choose between a family that is ready to sit shiva for her and a dream-walking who hasn't quite learned to pick up after himself
"I Lost It All in Montreal" is a first novel about growing up that is funny, raunchy, even wise. Although some of the ground it covers is familiar -- Portnoy Meets Sheila Levine -- Donna Steinberg is able to find some new angles on the Jewish-American experience. Even granted a few too many cliches and some situation-comedy setups, no novel that supplies this many genuine laughs can be passed up. (1982)
Buy Donna Steinberg's I Lost It All in Montreal