‘High Maintenance’ is low on laughs

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‘High Maintenance’ is low on laughs

Liv Kellerman is newly-divorced and was forced, she thinks, to move out of her upscale New York City apartment into a walk-up with a shower that requires a pair of pliers for turning on the water and has a refrigerator that doesn’t work. She stumbles through the adjustments in her life in a way that the book cover blurbs say is “hilarious.” Mildly amusing in parts would be more accurate.
Jennifer Belle’s “High Maintenance” has some nice touches: a man swinging a cat on a park swing and an Asian cabbie who gets involved in a fight between Liv, her new, married boyfriend and another of his girlfriends. But the humor is often forced, and Liv is portrayed in a way that makes her appear as thick as a brick rather than as a classy, armored New York dame with a heart of gold inside the brass exterior.
The concept of the book is that real-estate transactions in New York City are a metaphor for life there. But after Liv gets a real-estate license and starts showing apartments, there is little in the book to connect her working life with her travails or with her new boyfriend. And any reader with an IQ greater than that of a New York City pothole will know he is married at least a hundred pages before Liv’s gun-waving confrontation with him makes it explicit.
Hilarious? Liv’s boyfriend rips her ear during lovemaking; she goes to a veterinarian’s office to have it stitched and Ms. Belle milks a few laughs from the vet’s assumption that a dog bit her. Perhaps the best line comes shortly thereafter, when a passing physician compliments the excellent repair job on her ear and asks who did it. “A vet,” she replies. “Nice job,” the doctor says. “Military doctors are usually very well trained.” A pity: a humor-laden setting and good concept goes to naught.

by John Hoog
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