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Danny Levin
Janie Ligon's Revenge
Danny Levin, author
It's 1995. The internet is about to transform society. Janie Ligon, Levi Strauss’s newly appointed General Manager for the United Kingdom, hopes the same for her career. However, barely six months later her life is thrown into disarray when her perfect husband of 24 years seeks a divorce. Janie refuses to become the punch line in the cliched story of a middle-aged man leaving his marriage for a trophy wife. When she cannot convince him to stay, she decides to exact the revenge she believes is rightfully hers. Events unfold in San Francisco, London, Silicon Valley, and Scotland. A page-turner from an author one reviewer compared to Martin Amis.
This brisk novel of divorce and vengeance finds Janie Ligon, an American executive working in the UK, facing the end of her marriage and finding herself consumed, at the start of a tricky divorce, by anger and a desire for retribution against Samuel, her husband of 24 years, and his aspiring trophy wife, Alison. After spotting a hickey on Samuel and urging him into couples therapy, Janie knows the marriage is ending, and soon is taking steps toward “maximizing her share of their joint assets” and securing parental rights over their daughter, Hannah. Samuel, meanwhile, has been facing a midlife crisis, pouring his energy into squash and, eventually, with much self-forgiving naivete, Alison, to whom he pens gooey love letters praising her star sign profile and insisting she makes him feel like he’s 15.

Levin sets this story of a woman scorned in the mind 1990s, the dawn of the digital era, when “E-mail was a novelty few used, at least in England.” Janie must adapt to the new technology in her quest for revenge. Samuel’s correspondence with Alison is old-school, letters in which the pair address each other with real yearning, with Samuel’s sincerity somewhat undercut by what readers may interpret as Levin’s satiric bent—despite his elaborate wooing of the respondent to his own personal ad, Samuel is surprised that love letters and dates lead to love making.

Chapters from Janie’s perspective pulse with justified bitterness, creating a tense, engaging contrast that powers the plot. She is no fool and refuses to let any make her a caricature of the abandoned aging ex. Deep concerns of reputation, deftly captured by Levin, motivate both leads throughout, which makes the muted reaction to the breakup from daughter Hannah a telling, relatable detail. Despite the title and the power of Janie’s anger, the letters and the love story overshadow the story’s most compelling element: Janie’s rage at betrayal.

Takeaway: Human story of love, betrayal and retribution, at the dawn of the digital era.

Comparable Titles: Fay Weldon, Elizabeth Berg.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-