Bookreview: “Necessary People”

(The Freeman) - May 23, 2019 - 12:00am

“Necessary People”

By Anna Pitoniak (Little, Brown)

CEBU, Philippines — Two complex women inhabit Anna Pitoniak’s second psychologically astute novel, “Necessary People” – recent college graduates who’ve become the closest of friends, though they’re opposites in so many ways.

Stella Bradley comes from a wealthy New York family, has two doting parents and a home on Long Island Sound featuring a carriage house, a pear orchard, a swimming pool and a dock stretching out into the water. Not much of a student, she enrolls at a small New England college because, in her own words, she’s “rich, and lazy.” Violet Trapp was raised by abusive parents in a “mildewed apartment with roaches” in Tallahassee. She’s an outstanding student who turns down a full scholarship to Duke against her counselor’s advice. Instead, she picks a school based solely on a five-minute conversation with Stella during orientation.

Violet spends holidays and summers with the Bradleys, and after graduation, she and Stella share an apartment in New York City, mostly funded by Stella’s parents. Violet follows her love of journalism to an internship at a new TV channel, King Cable News. She quickly rises through the ranks, becoming an assistant and then assistant producer. She loves the challenge and relishes the sense of accomplishment she experiences as her work is recognized by those above her on the network ladder.

Stella, however, is floundering – spending her parents’ money “like it was water,” her days “a chick-lit fantasy come alive,” in Violet’s own words. When Stella’s brother tells Violet that Stella is actually jealous of her, Violet doesn’t believe it at first. But then Stella uses one of her mother’s lofty connections to land a job at King News, and her beauty and outgoing personality catapult her to an anchor job, overshadowing Violet’s hard-earned accomplishments.

Their longtime friendship gives way to ambition, each one feeling threatened by the other’s success. Pitoniak perceptively traces the fracture of Violet and Stella’s sisterlike bond, leading to a denouement the reader will not anticipate. The author’s insightful glimpse into the competitive world of television news, as well as her spot-on portraits of these two ambitious women, come together in an emotional, gripping novel sure to become a popular summer read. Reviewed by Deborah Donovan (

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