Tracy McMillan is probably best known for her memoirs and her writing for both Mad Men and United States of Tara. She’s also considered a relationship expert. When I read the publisher’s description for her debut novel, Multiple Listings, I couldn’t resist it. It looked like a classic comedy of errors, which would have been quite enough, and it turned out to be even more than that. WooHoo! Everyone has those moments in their lives when it seems like everything that can go wrong decides to go wrong all at the same time, and that’s exactly what happens in Multiple Listings. I think you’re going to like this one. I know I did.
“You can’t trick the Universe. It’s like Santa Claus that way.” quote from Tracy McMillan, relationship expert.
Nicki Daniels has a successful real estate appraisal company in Portland, Oregon. She is really practicing right livelihood because she loves real estate with a passion. Nothing makes her happier than wandering through homes. Sometimes she can’t believe she’s paid to do that. Bottom Line: She’s on top of her game and loving her life. It doesn’t hurt that her younger boyfriend, Jake, is gorgeous and totally devoted to her. She has to pinch herself to believe her life is this good.
Nicki’s worked hard to get where she is. She was determined to build a stable, successful life for herself and even more so for her son, Cody, to make up for the unstable life she had growing up. She didn’t want Cody to ever have to experience what she did. And she’s done it. Nothing could be more gratifying than knowing she’s financially sound and has the life she’s always dreamed of. What more could she possibly want?
She and Jake are searching for the perfect home for the three of them to build their new lives together. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the home she already owns – in fact she loves her home – but they want to put their collective stamp on a new place that’s theirs together. It was Jake’s idea but Nicki agrees that it’s the right next step for them. Finding that perfect home is something else again but they’ve kind of narrowed it down to a place in Southeast Portland.
“How many houses have we looked at so far anyway, thirty? Forty? Fifty? I lost count sometime after deciding we should shift our search from Northeast Portland back to Southeast Portland. Which was a couple of weeks after shifting our search to Northeast Portland from Southeast Portland, and that’s not counting the two lofts we looked at in the Pearl District, or the two weeks we spent nosing around the West Hills (as if)…
Everyone says the same thing. You’ll know it when you see it. But at this point, I’m wondering if it’ll ever happen, and if it did, how would I know?
Which is why I really need a sign. Jake doesn’t believe in signs. At all…He knows in an instant what he wants. Like, me, for example. On our third date, he told me I was it for him. That he could see himself with me forever. At first I was a little bit suspicious, but he won me over. Scratch that, at first I was thrilled…Then I got suspicious and he had to win me over.”
Jake also has a passion for cooking and has always wanted to open a restaurant. Nicki thinks it’s a fabulous idea and has agreed to invest in it with him. She’ll put in the money and he’ll put in the sweat equity. They’re really excited about this new joint venture. It’s the culmination of a life-long dream for him and will be a nice extra profit center for her. Of course, she doesn’t know anything about the restaurant business but she didn’t know anything about the real estate appraisal business either when she got into it, so she can learn, right?
And then something happens to throw a huge monkey wrench into things, although she doesn’t know it’s coming until it literally rings her doorbell. That something is Nicki’s father, a father she wrote off a long, long time ago – a father named Ronnie who’s been in prison for a lot of Nicki’s life. Ronnie was a con man and, once he went to prison for a long sentence, Nicki never expected to see him again. Ronnie was a model prisoner; however, he was suddenly paroled because of a bureaucratic screw-up concerning his trial instead of for good behavior. Although he was released to a halfway house, his parole specified that he had to have somewhere to live and a job within a certain time frame or be returned to prison. He had nowhere to go except to Nicki’s – it was that or go back to jail and he was determined to never get locked up again. And that’s how he ended up ringing her doorbell.
“My doorbell just went off. It’s the worst possible moment – I’m in the middle of putting the food on the table for a family dinner, which never happens…”
“I’m almost there when I catch a glimpse through the beveled-glass window. I promptly drop the platter on the floor. Oh my God.
I can hear the platter smash into fifty pieces and I can see there’s a huge brown stain spreading all over the white rug, but I can’t even pay attention to it because – how is this possible?
My father is standing on my front porch. I have not seen him in seventeen years.”
And that, dear reader, is the straw that broke the camel’s back…or there may have been stuff flying at a fan, or both – you get the idea. Suddenly this ideal life that Nicki has built, a lot of which is based on her reputation and integrity as a business person and as an individual, becomes like a house built on shifting sand. And she completely freaks out. She’s done everything she could to cancel out the horrible stuff she lived through because of her father and here he is, standing on her doorstep. Talk about damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Beyond panicking, which she definitely does, what will she do? How solid is the life she’s built? Can it withstand this kind of upheaval or will it all crumble around her? Will she turn Ronnie away and let him go back to prison? Will she take him in but lose some or everything she holds dear? Can she find some kind of happy medium?
Sometimes everything really does seem to have to break down before a person can break through to what’s next in their life. It would be so much nicer if that didn’t have to happen, she said wistfully. This is the crossroads Nicki has come upon in her life…her carefully and meticulously constructed life, built upon the shifting sands of things she’s shoved in the deepest closet in her mind. Now those things have decided to step up to her very front door and demand to be acknowledged. Oh boy – Not!
Tracy McMillan has done an excellent job of balancing the seriousness of Nicki’s predicament with the comedic absurdity of it in Multiple Listings. I laughed until I cried and cringed at the same time. My heart broke and it swelled, depending on where I was in the book. At times it was literally like watching a train wreck – you know it’s going to happen but you just can’t look away. I found myself at various times muttering, “No, don’t do that…don’t believe that…what the hell are you thinking” while knowing all too well that Nicki literally couldn’t make decisions other than the ones she was making. At other times, I was cheering her on with “You go, girlfriend!” By the end, I felt I had made a new friend who I didn’t want to leave. This is women’s fiction of the very best kind. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Here are 20 quotes from Tracy McMillan about relationships:
Can’t wait to read it? Multiple Listings will be published on March 8, 2016; however, it’s available now for pre-order in most formats from your favorite online bookseller. Just click the link below and you can have it to read the moment it’s published.
I’d love to get your feedback on Multiple Listings, Tracy McMillan and/or her other work, and/or this review.