'The Idea of Him' Beats the Actual Him

PHOTO: Pictured is the cover for Holly Petersons "The Idea of Him: A Novel."
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The setting is New York City. The lifestyle is that of the rarified elite – the one-percenters – recently portrayed in Martin Scorsese's “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The book is “The Idea of Him,” by New York Times bestselling author Holly Peterson, who is no stranger to that world. She is, after all, the daughter of Pete Peterson, who ranks on Forbes’ “The World’s Billionaires” List and was dubbed by the Los Angeles Times in 2012 as “the most influential billionaire in America.”

The book’s protagonist, Allie Crawford, is a gifted writer who fantasizes about leaving the “a**-kissing of the PR world” to concentrate on “mothering my children intensely well and writing better than I had.” Her handsome philandering husband, Wade, indulges in “Goop cleanses” and in other women.

When Allie discovers shocking details about her husband’s life, an old flame re-enters her life and a new man gets a little too close. She starts re-evaluating her marriage and questions whether she is in love with Wade or with the idea of him.

Peterson believes that Allie’s dilemma is common in real life. She believes that men and women can and do fall in love with “the idea of someone, someone who’s strong, someone who’s responsible, someone who’s a rebel, someone who’s powerful, someone who’s electric.” But when the idea does not match reality, the realization can be terrifying.

Peterson’s characters sup on $38 consommé at the “Tudor Room,” reminiscent of Manhattan’s top “power lunch” spots.

In “The Idea of Him,” the diners at the Tudor Room are members of the “meritocracy.” Peterson describes this tier as “powerful, complicated, neurotic and somewhat crazy. … it’s really a special breed and they’re pretty. They’re pretty crazy in their quest for power.”

Peterson can empathize because she has personally been through it. She reflects on her life, saying, “I think that being on your own, while it’s really terrifying, and while we all fear those Saturday nights alone, or those cornflakes dinners alone, or the fear of going to a restaurant alone, all of that seems so scary. … I did get divorced with 3 children, and I was on my own for a while, you know I think that those Saturdays are great, it’s great to have the time alone. … It’s kind of nice to not be with someone who you’re not fully relating to.”

Peterson is interested in greed among that tier of the elite who would never fly commercial.

In that world, whatever you have, it’s not enough,“ notes Leslie Bennetts, author of national bestseller “The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?” and a personal friend of Peterson’s. “You charter private planes but you’re upset you don’t own your own plane. You have a beautiful wife and you want to sleep with someone else. More is better, and nothing is sufficient.”

Though Peterson rarely speaks of her upbringing, Bennetts says she’s uniquely qualified to write about the uber-wealthy, calling her a “member of the 1% -- actually she’s a member of the 0.1% of the 1% -- and she has a bird’s eye view of the social, financial, political and sexual mores of the elite.”

Bennetts described Peterson as “the ultimate romantic,” and notes that passion, in terms of romantic and sexual attraction, is a big theme in both “The Manny,” Peterson's first bestselling novel, and “The Idea of Him.” The title of the latest book has lots of resonance, according to Bennetts.

Many women marry somebody because they like “the idea of him” – he’s good on paper, he has the right looks or background or profession – and they lose sight of what they really see in the person, Bennetts says.

Peterson was a contributing editor for Newsweek, an editor-at-large for Talk magazine and an Emmy Award–winning producer for ABC News, where she spent more than a decade covering global politics. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, Talk, The Daily Beast, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and numerous other publications.

“The Idea of Him” is on sale today.

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