As the afternoon of life looms over Vanessa Wonderman, she watches her parents age, attends doctor appointments with her pregnant daughter, and sits by the hospital bed of her husband, Asher, fifteen years her senior. With her best years as an actress behind her, she's discovering that beginnings are easy, but endings can be hard.
Jong’s newest novel is unabashedly chick lit of a certain age. At times frothy, at times poignant, Fear of Dying left me with a sense of relaxed cheer. Reading it is akin to enjoying a mimosa-filled brunch and then settling in to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with an old—but stylishly well-preserved—pal. And what’s wrong with that?
On display is the author’s characteristic mix of salty language and broad humor, warmth and truth-telling ... Both Zipless.com and Isadora — who appears infrequently, for the most part dispensing quippy advice and then disappearing — are superfluous, perhaps brought in to draw more readers or to leaven a book that’s primarily about aging and death ... Throughout Fear of Dying, however, Vanessa’s narration is disjointed. Tender, smart passages that ponder the meaning of growing old and the pain of aging in a culture that largely ignores its older women are interspersed with disappointing shtick about Zipless.com or circumcision or shopping.
...for the most part Jong's literary reputation has never matched her commercial success. Fear of Dying, a ruminative, intermittently tedious mess of a novel, is unlikely to change that ... Jong depicts Wonderman as a (mostly) caring daughter, who, in the book's most vividly written scenes, expresses a mixture of tenderness and repulsion toward her impossibly old parents.