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56 pages 1 hour read

Elissa Sussman

Funny You Should Ask

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2022

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Funny You Should Ask is the first adult romance novel by Elissa Sussman, who previously wrote young adult novels. The book was released by Random House in 2022. Told in sections that alternate between past and present, interspersed with fictional news clippings of reviews and other articles, the novel describes the weekend-long interactions between Chani Horowitz, a journalist, and Gabe Parker, a Hollywood “heartthrob.” Chani’s first profile on Gabe establishes her career, but they both go on to marry other people, and as Chani finds success as an essayist, Gabe develops an alcohol addiction and goes to rehab.

Ten years later, both are divorced, and their agents suggest a re-do of the infamous weekend to provoke interest in Gabe’s comeback movie. Chani approaches the assignment wary about how they’ve both changed but finds the spark is still alive. Funny You Should Ask became a bestseller thanks to exposure on TikTok and was featured in best books of the year lists by Cosmopolitan, Book Riot, The Washington Post, and NPR.

This guide references the Dell Trade paperback edition published in 2022.

Note: The sections of the novel that are made up of fictional news clippings, reviews, and other articles are referred to as “interludes” for the purpose of this guide.

Plot Summary

In the Prologue, Chani agrees to a suggestion from her agent to do a celebrity profile on Gabe Parker. Ten years ago, Chani did a weekend-long interview of Gabe when he was first cast in the role of James Bond. Her interview convinced audiences to accept an American Hollywood “hunk” as Bond and made Chani famous. She is always asked if she slept with him, and she always laughs and says she wishes. Ten years later, Chani has a successful career interviewing celebrities and is divorced, wiser, and publicizing her second collection of essays. Gabe Parker was infamously fired from the Bond franchise, has been to rehab twice, and is divorced from his Bond co-star Jacinda Lockwood, whom he married in Las Vegas shortly after his and Chani’s first interview. Chani wants to ask Gabe some questions about that first interview, so she agrees to do a second one.

The book moves day-by-day through each weekend, first describing the events of the original weekend 10 years ago, then describing events of the present day. Interspersed with the action are excerpts of Chani’s infamous Broad Sheets interview, movie reviews of Gabe’s work, other magazine profiles of Gabe and his co-stars, gossip columns commenting on Gabe’s personal life, excerpts from Chani’s blog, and reviewers remarking on Chani’s work—all of whom want to know if she slept with Gabe Parker.

The infamous first interview describes the Friday when Chani meets Gabe at his house and is introduced to his puppy. They have lunch. On Saturday, Gabe invites Chani to a movie premiere starring his friend, British actor Oliver Matthias, the popular choice for Bond. Sunday night, Chani describes attending Gabe’s house party, having too much to drink, and watching Star Trek with him before leaving his house. She ends the four-part article with the confident assertion that Gabe will make a terrific Bond.

Descriptions of that Friday 10 years ago portray Chani as extremely nervous and awkward as she approaches Gabe’s house to interview him. She has an intense crush on him and hopes that this interview will help her career, which isn’t unfolding as she’d hoped. Chani went to school to be a writer but worries that doing nonfiction profiles of celebrities isn’t good writing, an idea her ex-boyfriend, Jeremy, a novelist, has reinforced. Chani is charmed by Gabe’s puppy and speaks forthrightly with him, giving him her opinion on Los Angeles and the classic film The Philadelphia Story.

At lunch, Chani notices that Gabe drinks a lot. He is charming and has read her work, including her blog. He confesses that the producers offered Oliver the role of Bond first. Gabe knows that people think he’s a terrible choice for Bond and is sleeping with his co-star, British model Jacinda Lockwood, who he insists is only a friend. Chani worries that the interview is going badly and she’s not getting enough good material. When she drops Gabe off at his house, he invites her to attend the premiere of Oliver’s movie with him the next night.

In the present day, 10 years later, Chani meets Gabe at the same restaurant. She still feels angry and hurt that he lied to her about his relationship with Jacinda all those years ago. She was “blindsided” when Gabe eloped to Vegas with Jacinda. She’s angry at herself for falling for him, and she’s angry that she still feels a strong pull to him, all these years later. Older Gabe is even more attractive, and he speaks honestly with her about rehab and his recovery. He tells Chani that he and Jacinda had an arrangement to benefit their careers, not a real marriage. Instead of going forward with the interview about his role in a remake of The Philadelphia Story, Gabe asks Chani about her marriage. She married Jeremy and lived in New York with him for several years, but has recently moved back to LA. She doesn’t want to talk about her divorce. Gabe invites Chani to visit Montana with him.

The story flashes back 10 years to the Saturday of the premiere. Chani felt amazed to be Gabe Parker’s date. She meets Oliver Matthias and the three of them go dancing at a gay club. Chani learns that Oliver turned down the role of Bond because the producers wanted him to hide that he’s gay. She realizes she can’t write about this even though it would make her career. Gabe dances with her, and Chani is further amazed that he seems attracted to her.

Ten years later, Chani agrees to accompany Gabe to Montana, though she isn’t sure what he wants from her. Oliver flies them to Gabe’s hometown on his private jet. Chani and Oliver have remained friends, and Oliver let Chani write the article when he decided to come out. They have dinner in Montana, and Chani recalls a night she went to see Gabe’s play in New York City. She had felt excited and nervous about seeing him again, and he invited her to his dressing room after the show. She went, only to find Jacinda there with him.

In the flashback to the Sunday of 10 years ago, Chani goes to Gabe’s house party still worried about what to write. She feels excluded at the house party until they play a party game and she and Gabe make a winning team. Chani passes out and wakes up in Gabe’s bed, feeling humiliated that she’s living up to the stereotype of female reporters who sleep with their interview subjects. The party is over, and she talks with Gabe alone on the couch. He tells her about his father, whom he never discusses in interviews. They kiss and embrace, but when things grow intense, Chani stops Gabe. They go to separate rooms to sleep.

On Sunday in the present, Gabe shows Chani around his hometown in Montana. He takes her to the theatre he just bought and the bookstore his mom runs. As Chani signs copies of her book, she wonders how much of her career depends on public interest in her relationship with Gabe. She was hurt and offended when she found out that Jeremy assumed she’d slept with Gabe. But she enjoys meeting Gabe’s family, including his mother, sister, and niece. She reminds Gabe that he called her the night before he entered rehab. Chani feels reassured that Gabe really cares about her, and they return to Gabe’s apartment to make love.

A flashback to Monday morning 10 years ago finds Chani sneaking out of Gabe’s house in the early morning and calling a cab home. Ten years later, in the present moment, Chani wakes to a text from her agent warning her that pictures of her lunch with Gabe are circulating. Chani feels that she can’t have a relationship with Gabe because her career will be over; everyone will assume she lied about sleeping with him 10 years ago, and she won’t be trusted again. Worse, she can’t be sure she is actually a good writer all on her own or if all her success is a result of proximity to Gabe. Oliver takes Chani to breakfast to remind her that Gabe is still a person with feelings and the ability to fall in love and be hurt. Gabe asks Chani to choose whether to be with him or not. Chani decides not to care what other people think and chooses to be with Gabe.

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