It's been awhile since I read a book that I've liked as much as Alice Fantastic .

That's a simple, non-hyperbolic statement that probably won't cut it as a book jacket blurb, but screw it: I just liked it. I liked the characters—professional gambler Alice Hunter; her sister Eloise, the toymaker; their mother, Kimberly, a recovering addict who lives with her hot German girlfriend and 15 rescued dogs. I liked the relationships between these women. I liked author Maggie Estep's prose, intelligent and direct. I liked reading a book that allowed for emotional complexity; that, unlike so much contemporary literature, didn't mistake neuroticism for character depth.

On paper, Alice Fantastic sounds like chick-lit trash, focusing as it does on the romantic misadventures of these three women. Alice and Eloise accidentally sleep with the same man. Eloise surprises everyone by going gay, while Kimberly does the same by going straight. Thing is, though, unlike the majority of so-called "chick lit" authors, Estep writes as though she knows and likes real women. The Hunter women are prickly but appealing, grounded by the knowledge that, even when things have gone to utter shit and they don't feel like getting out of bed, the dogs still need to be walked. Estep's written a great little book—don't ignore it just because it's about women.