Watching these not-so-nice oddballs orbit one another is like rubbernecking an accident—an oh-God-oh-no marvel ... Dermansky has cultivated a style marked by humor so dry it threatens to ignite on the page. The assured deadpan prose belies the characters’ chaotic inner lives. It’s a precarious balance, but Dermansky uses deft plotting and absurdist ironies to both shock readers and probe psychological nuances ... Very Nice is a wickedly fun and emotionally potent farce about the often-frustrating fluidity of our relationships to one another and ourselves. Along the way, Dermansky skewers Wall Street and the Iowa Writers Workshop...but her real battleground is the beating heart.
With a story of sex and intrigue set amid rich people in a beautiful house with a picturesque swimming pool, it is, indeed, a good book to pack for your vacation. But maybe it’s more than that ... It’s to the author’s credit that this mother-daughter love triangle is considerably less icky than it sounds ... The plot is nominally about whether Zahid and Becca will become lovers and how this will affect Rachel. But Very Nice contains many story lines and a whole cast of characters, almost like a stage farce ... Each chapter moves the central story forward but is also a digression ... the brisk pacing and economical style are seductive and keep the reader’s attention ... What will happen at this house in Connecticut, and the attendant themes of family, sex and marriage, are conveyed in a distant, affectless way. This isn’t minimalism, not really; the narrative has the sound and feel of anecdote, or maybe more appropriately, fairy tale ... Dermansky manages to resolve what ultimately becomes a pretty crazy plot, while keeping the novel’s aims opaque. It’s only on the final page that those become somewhat clearer. And yet, Very Nice is not a text that reveals itself at the last minute as metafiction or parable ... It’s not a trick, with the reader as its patsy, and though very funny, it’s not a joke at the reader’s expense.
This darkly funny book vies to answer the age-old question 'Just how huge is our collective appetite for tales of male novelists behaving badly?' Dermansky uproariously follows a Great Literary Man as he’s seduced by his college pupil — and her recently divorced mother— against the backdrop of a wealthy Connecticut enclave.
... serves up a tart lemonade of a summer read that won't demand too much of your time or attention: Short, simple sentences. Strong, outspoken characters. Lots of libidinous activity, much of it unwise, some of it around a swimming pool. A beautiful standard poodle. A posh Connecticut coastal commuter town that brings a decidedly modern update to John Cheever's suburbia ... Flat, matter-of-fact prose again captures the way the ordinary can morph into liberating strangeness, but the result this time around is a friskier read. Very Nice zips and twists along episodically, with a tightly spun narrative that alternates between the points of view of a handful of linked characters ... However twisted, it's amusing to watch these people repeatedly step in it and act in bad faith. The novel culminates with a cheap but funny twist on a common metaphor, which underscores its satiric intent. But beneath the fun, Very Nice is a scathing portrait of a culture in which self-interest overrides duty and loyalty. Even the dog is unfaithful.
You don’t have to be an author to appreciate the novel’s pleasures. This rapid-fire tale, which switches among five narrators, will keep readers entertained ... The prose in Rachel’s opening section sets the tone for the book. Dermansky’s characters speak in short sentences which, depending upon your perspective, is either an homage or a critique of minimalist writing ... With an impressively light touch, Dermansky pokes considerable fun at the literary world, from authors who are asked their opinion on the best bath products for writers to the unspoken suggestion that the wealthy are freer to pursue a career in the arts than those of lesser means ... The novel builds to a conclusion that may be too broad for some readers.
The fact that all [the characters] sound like Marcy Dermansky seems like part of the joke ... Is Very Nice Dermansky's best yet? I'm still reserving that honor for The Red Car. But if you are looking for a smart yet wacky summer diversion, a sendup of PC pretensions, a book that will make you both laugh and gasp out loud, dive between the enticing aqua covers of Very Nice. Then swim on into the backlist.
Dermansky imbues her characters with the type of depth and distinct personalities that rise above facile portrayals. Narration is in the first person and the reader, who is invited to see through the eyes of every major character, gains insight into the truths and deceptions in what characters tell each other and themselves. Dermansky’s spare prose compels the reader in such an effortless way that the monumental revelations her characters nonchalantly make have an even greater impact. As a study on human nature, this novel can easily hold its own amongst literary works, but will likely also be well-received by general fiction lovers looking for a more substantial, yet still entertaining, book to read.
... sly, deceptively simple and thoroughly seductive ... Bouncing between points of view, Dermansky confines herself to snappy, brisk paragraphs and short sentences, with much of the psychic action between the lines. Her sharp satire spares none of the characters and teeters brilliantly on the edge of comedy and tragedy.
There are many funny writer jokes in this book, among them the commentary on Rachel's parents' marriage provided by her short stories; in a way the whole book is a writer joke. All the characters sound the same—like Dermansky, except with more or less profanity—and that seems to be intentional ... This may not be the best thing [Dermansky's] ever written—it doesn't have the sneaky profundity of The Red Car—but it's a hell of a lot of stylish fun ... Can you top this? is the question posed by each chapter of this upmarket soap opera, and the answer is always yes.