The novel revolves around movie actress Suzanne Vale as she tries to put her life together after a drug overdose. The book is divided into five main sections: The
prologue is in
epistolary form, with postcards written by Suzanne to her brother, friend, and grandmother. The novel continues the epistolary form, consisting of
first-person narrative excerpts from a journal Suzanne kept while coming to terms with her
drug addiction and
rehab experiences. ("Maybe I shouldn't have given the guy who pumped my stomach my phone number, but who cares? My life is over anyway.") In time Suzanne's entries begin to alternate with the experiences of Alex, another addict in the same clinic. This section ends with Suzanne being discharged after successfully completing treatment. The second section opens with
dialogue between Suzanne and
movie producer Jack Burroughs on their first date. It then changes to alternating
monologues from Suzanne (addressed to her therapist) and Jack (addressed to his lawyer, who serves much the same purpose as Suzanne's therapist). Their relationship continues in this vein – all dialogue/monologue.
The last three sections are traditional
third-person narrative. The third section describes the initial days of the first movie Suzanne made after her treatment. For convenience, Suzanne stays with her grandparents while the movie is made. She is chided for not relaxing herself on-screen, and notes that if she could relax she wouldn't be in therapy. This becomes a running gag among the actors and crew. The section ends with the crew
mooning her on her birthday, and Suzanne asserts that "there isn't enough therapy" to help her with that experience. The fourth section shows a week of Suzanne's "
normal" life: working out, business meetings, an industry party, and going with a friend to a television studio for a talk show. She meets an author in the
green room and gives him her phone number. The fifth section encapsulates her relationship with the author, bringing the story to the anniversary of her overdose. The
epilogue consists of a letter from Suzanne to the doctor who pumped her stomach, who had recently contacted her. She notes that she is still off drugs and doing well. She is flattered that he inquires as to whether she is "available for dating", but she is seeing someone. The book ends on a bittersweet note: she knows she has a good life, but doesn't trust it.
Unlike the movie, most of the conflict in the book is internal, as Suzanne is learning to handle her life without the prop of drugs. Suzanne's mother appears in very few scenes, while Suzanne is in rehab:
- My mother is probably sort of disappointed at how I turned out, but she doesn't show it. She came by today and brought me a satin and velvet quilt. I'm surprised I was able to detox without it. I was nervous about seeing her, but it went okay. She thinks I blame her for my being here. I mainly blame my dealer, my doctor, and myself, and not necessarily in that order. [...] She washed my underwear and left.
Later Suzanne talks with her on the phone, but it is not stressful.