Book Review: I Was Told There'd Be Cake

By all accounts, Sloane Crosley is the most well-liked book publicist in New York. If her debut collection of quirky personal essays is any measure of her personality and charm, it's easy to see why. A 20-something Manhattanite who grew up in the comfy environs of Westchester County, Crosley brings a welcome freshness and originality to her keen observations of such common experiences as summer camp, first jobs and tenuous friendships. Readers looking for confessional Sturm und Drang will not find it here. While both sharp and insightful, Crosley avoids dragging deep emotional waters. Instead she offers an expertly detailed view from the surface of life's sometimes frustrating but always entertaining ironies.
In her first essay, for example, Crosley describes how her fondness for ponies--the plastic kind--has resulted in gifts of the little creatures from various boyfriends (now exes), which are now piled up in her kitchen drawer. At first, her desire to dispose of the ponies seems to speak to the need to let go of the past, but no, her attempt to divest herself of them devolves into a very amusing dilemma involving the subway, a black plastic garbage bag and a hefty dose of paranoia.
Another piece describes in it-only-hurts-when-I-laugh detail the author's first job in publishing with a boss from hell whose dislike for her seemed to increase in direct proportion to Crosley's groveling. The nadir of this relationship came when Crosley baked a giant cookie in her boss's likeness. Big mistake. Later, a volunteer position at the Butterfly Room in the Museum of Natural History leads to some unexpectedly sticky situations. For anyone who's ever felt the shame of lepidopterophobia, here's your justification.
Readers will doubtless be able to relate to Crosley's tale of being roped into maid of honor duty by an old friend she hasn't heard from for a decade--and the miserable pink plaid wedding that follows. The boundaries of friendship are further explored--to hilarious effect--in "Smell This," one of the wittiest essays here, which involves two couples, a chocolate pear tart and an unmentionable parting gift.
Self-deprecating (though never ostentatiously so) and still possessed of the kind of optimism that allows her to believe her lost wallets will always be returned intact, Crosley manages to combine edginess and awe in an ultimately winning combination. She's literate, likeable and very funny, all of which makes her essays a pleasure to read.--Debra Ginsberg


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