There are guilty pleasures, and there are guilty disappointments. File My Hollywood, the first novel from Mona Simpson (Anywhere but Here) in 10 years, in the latter category. One feels remiss for not enjoying it, and positively callous for not appreciating it. That’s because My Hollywood revolves around two thoroughly decent and long-suffering women, the American Claire and her live-in Filipina nanny and maid, Lola, who both struggle to balance marriage, motherhood, and work. For both women, pleasure has also long been absent from the equation, and so they are sympathetic as well as admirable. But My Hollywood has no larger, engaging story to augment the lofty issue of women’s lingering subservience to men, as well as certain women’s subservience to other women. This may be a deliberate act of defiance on the author’s part—a refusal to moderate the starkness of her theme by subsuming it in a broader and friendlier narrative, or even occasionally directing the reader’s gaze elsewhere—but often the result is a good deal of tedium. My Hollywood, set in Los Angeles over a decade beginning in the early 1990s, is narrated by Claire and Lola in alternating chapters, and proves unmercifully relentless in its depiction of the domestic hardships they endure. Toward the end, Lola muses: “Once upon a time, the Trojan War maybe”—she’s been reading an abridged Odyssey, just like her little charge—“the men went out. But in our life, I was the one who could earn.” That is what impelled her to leave her husband and children in the Philippines to work in the U.S. For most of the novel, she lives with Claire and her workaholic husband Paul, taking care of their son William. On the weekend, she works for Helen and Jeff, minding their son Bing. Later, she is hired by a single mom, Judith, who needs help with her daughter Laura. “You can never get too proud this kind of work,” Lola remarks in her Tagalog-influenced English. “There is a rush to get you—but only to do what they would never do themselves.” Meanwhile, Claire, a composer and cellist by profession, grapples with motherhood’s tendency to fell her more ambitious, in this case, music-related plans. “As much as I loved Will, I wanted to make something too, something longer than life, that I made completely,” she thinks with some desperation. At times, Simpson laces her loosely structured story with wit as well as poignant tidbits about the lives of Lola’s fellow live-in babysitters—most of them Filipina—and their troubles; the so-called Book of Ruth, an encyclopedic guide to living as a domestic worker in America jointly compiled by Lola and her friends, is an admittedly intriguing idea. Unfortunately, however, flashes of humor and poetic observations about motherhood and domestic toil—here to be found amid heaps of laundry and unwashed dishes, in between which scamper bratty little kids—are not enough to carry a novel. My Hollywood’s focus may be commendable, but for the most part it is boring, repetitive, and devoid of plot.