Books by Elaine Kagan

LOSING MR. NORTH by Elaine Kagan
Released: May 14, 2002

"Certainly better than much that's out there, though not one of the author's best."
Kagan, author of several smart, grown-up novels (No Good-Byes, 2000, etc.), stumbles with this work on adultery, despite the novelty of taking both the wife and girlfriend's point of view. Read full book review >
NO GOOD-BYES by Elaine Kagan
Released: June 1, 2000

"A well-honed work on surviving heartache, spiffed up by the shiny glow of Tinseltown."
Garnished with the glamour of Hollywood, this third novel from actress Kagan (Somebody's Baby, 1998, etc.) transforms potentially hackneyed fare into a genuine exploration of grief. Read full book review >
SOMEBODY'S BABY by Elaine Kagan
Released: May 1, 1998

A third novel from film/TV actress Kagan (Blue Heaven, 1996, etc.), who this time out transforms now-prosaic subject matter—an adopted woman in search of her birth parents—into an erotic, albeit tragic, romance of love lost and finally regained. It's 1959, and Jenny Jaffe shares an all-consuming passion with Will McDonald, a California drifter who has jail time under his belt and an eagle tattooed on his chest—just the kind of boy a nice 17-year-old Jewish girl should avoid. His raw sex appeal initially attracts her, but it's his utter devotion that captures her heart. Jenny becomes pregnant, and the couple decide to elope. Jenny waits at the appointed time—but Will never shows up. What follows are a couple of botched suicide attempts by Jenny, a home for "wayward girls" in Los Angeles, a lovely baby given away, and a life forever haunted by the memory of her lost Will. The story next picks up the adult life of Claudia, the child Jenny gave up, raised in L.A. by an affluent Catholic couple. Claudia's dreams of the "other mother" plague her, especially since the birth of her own daughter. With the help of a detective, she tracks Jenny to New York, though with great trepidation—largely because of the repercussions the reunion may have on her parents. Jenny, it turns out, has made a life as a dancer but now, in her 50s and locked in a loveless marriage, is somewhat adrift. Claudia also goes in search of Will, and discovers him living quietly on a ranch at the base of the Sierra Nevadas. Married five times, Will has never forgotten Jenny (there's a good reason for his long-ago no-show), and now finally, with the help of their own grown daughter, reconciliation seems a possibility. In all, and against the odds, a passionate and emotionally charged tale. (Film rights to United Artists/Frank Mancuso; Literary Guild alternate selection; author tour) Read full book review >
BLUE HEAVEN by Elaine Kagan
Released: April 12, 1996

Actress/author Kagan's (The Girls, 1994) exploration of the fateful ties and traditions that bind women together, for better and sometimes for worse. Eighty-year-old Mollie Ventimiglia, who lives in Kansas City with her third husband Lew, is suffering from senile dementia and declining fast. When Gilliana, Mollie's middle-aged daughter, finds her own marriage in trouble, she decides to escape Los Angeles and head to Mollie and her own childhood home, where she is shocked to find her mother incoherent and Lew exerting every scrap of energy to give her the care she needs. When she quits L.A., Gilliana leaves not just her husband behind but 17-year-old-daughter Clare, who is naturally worried about both her parents' marriage and her grandmother's questionable health. But Clare is not her mother's, or her grandmother's, daughter for nothing; in Gilliana's absence, she grits her teeth and stays on good terms with her troubled dad, contemplates and then decides against having sex with her boyfriend, and searches for a theme for her college application essays. Meanwhile, back in Kansas, Lew and Gilliana have to decide what to do with Mollie, and Gilliana has to decide what steps to take in her own life. Over the course of the present-day narrative, Mollie and Gilliana's personal histories (and failed romances) emerge; Mollie's WW II wedding to a dashing gambler (Gilliana's father), and Gilliana's passionate affair with famous comic Anthony Ronzoni—whose untimely death left her irrevocably scarred—give Clare (who is sent for by Gilliana and present at Mollie's eventual death) insight into her own life, and help give Gilliana, on whom everybody else's fate hinges, the strength to make the decisions she has no choice but to make. Nonsensical title and strained historical references aside, an undeniable poignancy colors Kagan's attempt to show three generations of women coming to terms with each other at the end of a life. (Literary Guild selection) Read full book review >
THE GIRLS by Elaine Kagan
Released: May 9, 1994

Elaine Kagan's years as a television and theater actress lend a dimension of theatrical perceptiveness to her writing. Her finely tuned ear captures character through dialogue at perfect pitch. The Girls, her first novel, gets off to a promising start in the monologues of five women, friends since high school 20 years earlier, after a sixth friend, Jessie, shoots her husband, Pete Chickery. A series of convincing testimonies by the women reveals a kaleidoscopic picture of Pete: stereotypical womanizer, wife- abuser, the ideal male who knows exactly how to enhance each woman's self-image, the perfect lover, and the hated brother. Pete Chickery, killed before the book begins, dominates the novel. The fast pace of the action prevents the characters and the reader from questioning the assumption that Jessie killed Pete in self-defense. The image of Pete as a violent man is sustained both by what Jessie tells us and by the reminiscing of their son James. Even Jessie's rampage of self-destruction that ends with a slashed wrist does not prepare us for Pete's final postmortem monologue in which he recounts the events of the fateful Tuesday morning: how he followed Jessie to their friends' house because he couldn't bear to leave town without a reconciliation; how his motive was love, not violence; how, seeing Jesse pointing the gun at her own throat, he saved her but was accidentally killed when the gun went off in the struggle. Despite a writing style that is crisp and clean, tightly woven, with the dramatic punch of a whodunit, we are left with the unanswered question: Was Pete a hero or a villain? To make a reader suspend disbelief, a writer must sustain that reader's trust. In the end, this novel breaks that trust with a surprise ending that runs counter to the evidence we've been given. Read full book review >