There’s a Word for That is a contemporary novel by Sloane Tanen. The cast of characters include Marty, his girlfriend Gail, his daughters Janine and Amanda, Amanda’s daughters Jaycee and Hailey, Bunny and her son Henry.
Marty Kressler has been married and divorced many times. His current girlfriend has her heart set on being Mrs. Kressler. She’s started managing many of his affairs and had him switch financial advisors. Marty is a bit self-centered and doesn’t want to be alone. Marty ends up in rehab for his heroin habit, an action that was executed by Gail. Although he’s been supporting both of his adult daughters, he eventually adjusts his will to leave his assets to Gail, giving in to her pressure. He intends to later change it but dies while travelling in Rome, before he has a chance to make the changes.
Janine and Amanda are Marty’s only children. He raised them after his wife Pam commited suicide. Amanda was twelve and Janine fifteen at the time.
Janine Kressler was a child star who hasn’t done much since her television days. Her mother was responsible for her role and her father never approved. She’s just been drifting along in life since her acting days. In the beginning of the book, she signs up for a drawing class, aiming to be a cartoonist. She is good at creating snappy dialogue for different scenarios, such as ads but her drawing is quite amateur. However, after falling asleep at the flat of a classmate while working on a project, the classmate’s roommate took a picture of her with an empty bottle and sold it to the tabloids. Janine retreated back into herself once that happened, eventually leaving New York for LA to support her father. Here niece also encouraged her to make the visit.
Amanda is a divorcee raising two girls. She and Janine have been competing since childhood. Janine sees her as the prettier sister, even though she was the one who was cast into a television show. The sisters are not close and are barely cordial. However, when Amanda needs someone to mind her girls while she goes on a strip, she asks Janine for help.
Hailey and Jaycee have a relationship that parallels that of Janine and Amanda. Although they are twins who look quite alike, everyone considered Jaycee the prettier sister. However, when Jaycee strikes Hailey on her face in a field hockey game, Hailey needs cosmetic surgery. Her new face is distinctly different from her sister’s and is striking. She decides that she wants to be in a feature production and applies for a role while off from school for recovery. Without Amanda’s knowledge, Janine helps Hailey prepare for the role. It all goes well and it looks like she’ll get the role but then the director changed his mind because she wasn’t good at taking direction from him. However, he offered Janine a small role in the show.
When a distraught Hailey called her mother, Amanda was furious at Janine’s duplicity. This further soured their relationship.
Bunny Holter ends up in rehab after a disastrous birthday dinner where she offended all her friends. Her agent Ian and her ex-husband Sam gave her no choice. The silver lining of going to rehab was that she would be in LA, where her son Henry lived.
Henry worked as an art history professor at a university. His mother had named the main character in her young adult book series after Henry, an act that he did not appreciate. He preferred a quiet lifestyle and wished that his mother had paid more attention to him when she was a child instead of writing books with a character named after him.
Rehab in Directions
By chance, Bunny and Marty met in rehab at Directions. They had been married more than 40 years prior, in their 20s. They started spending more time together and rekindled their friendship. Neither of them had any plans to give up their addictions. Marty had smuggled in some drugs and was able to get one of the spa to buy some vodka for him. He and Bunny got drunk, working their way through the whole bottle. Unrepentant, Marty even shared this information with his family. He and Bunny also made a plan to travel to Rome together.
While Bunny and Marty rekindled their friendship, Henry and Janine started a romance of their own. They first met at the rehab center, and then at the pool. This lead to dinner and Janine even picked him up from the hospital after his ear surgery, taking him to her father’s home for his recovery. When Amanda returned from her trip, she found him there while looking for Janine. She was furious with Janine for helping Hailey with her audition. Conflict avoidant and emotionally immature, Henry quickly left the house, leaving a note for Janine rather than waiting for her to return first.
When the friendship between Bunny and Marty made Gail jealous, Marty’s concession was to change his will to leave everything to Gail and cut out his daughters. He meant to change his will when he returned from his trip to Rome.
Trip to Rome
Marty died peacefully in bed during the trip in Rome. Bunny arranged for him to be cremated and Henry arranged for his daughters to fly to Rome. Gail got on a charter flight to Rome to arrive before the daughters but Bunny saw all of them together and insistent on giving his ashes to Janine.
Back in LA, Amanda and Janine learned that their father only left them the house and Gail got to select anything she wanted to take from it. She took everything of value. Then the sisters needed to sell the house to pay the taxes. Going through this together actually brought the sisters closer. Their parting gift and revenge on Gail was to spread tuna oil in the car and plant a fake later from a pretend paramour of Marty’s.
Janine did not want to stay in the house alone. She moved back and forth between Amanda’s apartment and the guest room in Henry’s place. She and Henry weren’t quite sure about where their relationship stood, and Janine didn’t want to him to choose her just because she was pregnant. It has been a few weeks since she found out she was pregnant but she wanted to make up her mind on whether or not to keep the baby before talking to him.
When Henry asked Janine if she was pregnant, she said that she was not. His disappointment was a positive sign that she took as a compliment. Sometime later, Henry got into a fight with a man that was on line for the restaurant, Carneys. Since he threw the first punch, he and Janine ended up in the back of a cop car on the way to jail. Luckily, the cop had performed in Family Happens! with Janine and so he let them go. When Janine’s bag spilled, Henry found her prenatal vitamins and learned that Janine was pregnant.
In the parking lot of Carneys, Henry told Janine that he loved her and asked her to marry him, using his mother’s wedding ring. She didn’t answer him right away but agreed to keep the ring while she considered his proposal.
The Ending of There’s a Word for That
As Janine is driving to Henry’s from the pool, she gets a call from her dad’s lawyer, Jim Keating This time, he has good news. He tells her that the house was purchased by Bunny and she has put it equally in Janine’s and Amanda’s names. When Amanda and Janine talk, Amanda admits how much it would mean to her to raise her kids in the house. Janine likes that idea. She is starting a new life which will include acting once more. She’s driving to a place she want to be, where she will run lines with her sister and start a life with Henry.