STARRED REVIEW
April 2018

Lifestyles of the rich and somewhat famous

By Leah Stewart
Review by

In the 1966 introduction to the paperback edition of his novel Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” These are wise words for any of us to follow, but especially for TV actors Josie Lamar and Charlie Outlaw, the protagonists of Leah Stewart’s What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw.

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In the 1966 introduction to the paperback edition of his novel Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” These are wise words for any of us to follow, but especially for TV actors Josie Lamar and Charlie Outlaw, the protagonists of Leah Stewart’s What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw.

And what exactly don’t we know about Charlie? At the outset, tons, but we get to join him on his journey of self-discovery and psychic rehab after a magazine interview goes sideways, provoking a breakup with longtime partner Josie. Unlike most of us who nurse our romantic wounds more locally, Charlie has traveled to a tropical island, which sets the backdrop for not only soul-searching but also kidnapping. While his fame has not preceded him, his American citizenship has, making him an attractive target for The Gang That Couldn’t Think Straight.

Meanwhile, back on the mainland, Josie is struggling to find her place in the world as an actor and a woman in that prickly hammock between ingénue and “a certain age.” The cult hit she starred in 20 years earlier (the aptly titled show “Alter Ego”) is about to be fêted at a fan convention, and she’s feeling the disconnect between her heroic character and her present-day hot mess.

Stewart, the critically acclaimed author of The Myth of You and Me, toggles back and forth between the two star-crossed lovers, both of whom are keen to attempt fence-mending but are kept apart by circumstance until a dramatic and (dare we say it?) heroic gesture dramatically flips the script. Stewart’s copious research brings the less exotic elements of stardom (insecurity, on-set tedium, lack of privacy, fluctuating finances) into sharp relief, and her characters are far more believable than most who share the small screen with Charlie and Josie.

 

This article was originally published in the April 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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