||Karen Quinn's The Ivy Chronicles is the amusing story of what happens when a New Yorker loses her job, her husband, and her ritzy Park Avenue pad and is forced to carve out a new niche for herself and her two private school-educated daughters. After transferring the girls to public school and renting a shabby-chic (at best) flat upstairs from a knicherie, Ivy Ames takes her billionaire friend Faith's advice and starts a consulting business to help privileged pre-schoolers get into the city's premier kindergartens. Light on substance yet heavy on laughs, Quinn does a reasonably successful job of following in the well-heeled footsteps of earlier gossip lit standouts such as The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada.
While Ivy's moral quandaries (is it really wrong to accept an alligator-skin Prada in exchange for securing a child's placement at a top "Baby Ivy") and often raunchy romances form the basis for this exposé, it is the toddlers' family stories that get the most laughs along the way. From Maria Kutcher, whose mob boss father is often referred to as "Kutcher the Butcher" to Winnie Weiner, a "nice Jewish girl from the Upper West Side" who becomes the African-American WaShaunte Washington in order to snag a "diversity" spot at the top schools, Quinn spares no one when it comes to exposing the habits of the rich and almost-famous. Yet even as Ivy begins to see the error of her snobbish ways, Quinn never quite lets her off the hook completely ("...it was such a relief to have a powerful man to lean on. Why couldn't I have one of my very own? Why?"). Still, for those of us who are in need of a quick laugh and have a few hours to spare, The Ivy Chronicles promises to entertain and amuse. --Gisele Toueg