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Belying its pastoral name, Applewood is the kind of school district where the median household income rivals the stock price for good gossip. Though [Ellen Meister] - an advertising copywriter before motherhood struck - began working on her novel long before "Desperate Housewives" drew the correlation between white picket fences and hot sex, her novel has all the requisite potboiler ingredients: infidelity, cat fights, celebrity and rollicking love scenes. (Meister says her husband, a corporate bond analyst, was a bit taken aback by the fervor of the latter; she mustered up the steamy passages believing that no one would ever read them.)
"In most communities, the church is the center of the community. But in Jericho, it's the school," claims Meister, who admits to a few butterflies over reactions to the book at this year's first PTA meeting. (Most people, she says, were "warm and supportive.") One thing the book does is skewer the over-the-top jostling in a hierarchy of volunteers whose fiefdoms are bake sales and sweatshirt fund-raisers. In this social fishbowl, chairing the "right" PTA committee is a matter of, if not life and death, certainly prestige. Aside from the executive committee, Meister guesses that the most sought-after post is the fashion-show committee. "There are a lot of size 2's in this town," she says matter-of-factly.
To put the [George Clooney] coup in perspective, Meister recounts a story about shrink-wrapped back-to-school supplies that her sister's PTA sold to parents every September. "Furiously jealous" even as she stalked a Staples store looking for divided notebooks and calculators, Meister wrote a cranky note to her school principal asking why Jericho did not offer a similar perk. Next thing she knew, she was chairing the new school-supply committee.