"A heartfelt, captivating read, packed with familial politics and strife."– Kirkus Reviews
A poignant coming-of-age story about the bonds of friendship, the heartache of first love and navigating the turbulent waters of marriage and family.
Francis “Fran” Hopkins Draper Jr. grew up in the affluent suburb of Chestnut Hill, Pa., with his older sister Heather, his French, socially conscious mother and kowtowing father. He’s quick to point out that his relatives are “Long Island-lock-jawed, garden variety WASPs, a family whose members were born on third base but thought they’d hit a triple.” Fran and his peers are products of private-school education and his parents view themselves as part of the “impoverished aristocracy.” Groome frames his novel as Fran’s midlife memoir—which Heather cajoles her barely 30-year-old sibling into writing—based on his remarkable life that includes dropping out of Dartmouth, two marriages, a decorated tour in the military, a failed baseball career, a successful business career and an ongoing estrangement from his parents. In particular, Fran recounts his experiences in the summer of 1955. Having just graduated from high school, he and his best friend Potter work a summer job in Quebec. Introduced to a beautiful young woman named Lisette, Fran is immediately smitten by this girl who’s nothing like the shallow debutantes back home. Unfortunately, the love affair is short-lived, as the boys soon return home—where Potter must deal with his girlfriend’s potential pregnancy. Although Potter dodges that bullet, Fran and Lisette aren’t so lucky. Despite their upbringing, Fran and Heather are open-minded and focus on an individual’s character rather than on which side of the tracks they were raised. Their mother finds social standing, breeding and appearances to be of the utmost importance, yet compared to their compatriots, the Drapers are struggling financially—and the hypocrisy isn’t lost on her children. The harder she tries to turn the charade into reality by forcing her children into upper-class roles, the more she alienates them. The author deftly renders a sad portrait of a family being pulled apart by an alcoholic mother in denial. Though the narrative’s beginning is a bit bumpy, Groome quickly finds his stride. Writing in accessible, straight-forward prose, Groome creates a touching fictional memoir to cleverly illustrate a life lesson—without endings, there would be no beginnings.
A heartfelt, captivating read, packed with familial politics and strife.
Readers hungry for more Stieg Larsson will find much to laugh about in this clever, tongue-in-cheek adventure starring Gotilda Salamander and Jerker Rhindtwist.
When Olaf Gedda is found dead in his rose garden, his friend and fishing buddy Salamander is arrested and accused of firing the fatal shot. Her prints were found on the bucket of worms beside the body, so who else could it be? Salamander’s old flame, journalist Rhindtwist, makes some inquiries and discovers that a few others had motive as well—the lawyer Manfred von Otter, the butler Henrik Paulsson and the business partner Gunnar Hakanson. Salamander escapes from jail to better conduct an investigation of her own via computer, and manages to snare the murder weapon while trying to take a break from the stress of being a hunted criminal. With the help of solid research on Rhindtwist’s part, and well-planted karate kicks on Salamander’s, the efficient duo finds its way to justice, Swedish style. Groome has done substantial homework and adeptly recreates the quick pace and clipped tone of Larsson’s supremely popular books. He proves himself clever at planting the same type of benign character clues—the copious amounts of coffee consumed, the frequency of sex between Rhindtwist and his managing editor—that Larsson also uses to excess. The few times Groome’s characters branch off their worn paths feel slightly false, such as when Salamander cries in front of the police. Also, Groome shows his writerly hand too much when he follows certain plot lines—“Salamander was stumped and thought that spending a little time fishing might clear her head.” (Her prototype would never have admitted to being stumped.) Groome’s spoof highlights what millions love about the Larsson books—fast-paced action and smart, unconventional heroes—and pays tribute to what drove at least a few of those fans a little crazy—occasionally flat dialogue and tedious moments of explanatory connection.
A fun farce that will either anger or delight the throngs of hopeful Larsson fans.
A woman follows her heart to the frigid wilds of Alaska in this rugged romance.
She loves the warmth of San Diego, but 29-year-old Carrie Ritter is tired of her humdrum job as a dental hygienist and the parade of losers that mars her love life. (She had to beat up the latest Romeo when he tried to rape her.) A solution to both problems surfaces in the person of Bart McFee, a tall, gray-eyed, 30-something fugitive from society,” manly yet gentle, who wants to whisk Carrie off to his spread in Alaska. A few plane rides and a dog-sled trek later, she is appalled to arrive at a tiny, wood-heated cabin, with an outhouse set a daunting distance away amid a waist-high October snowfall. Carrie wants to leave, but Bart has already shot all but one of the sled dogs–too many mouths to feed–and there’s no getting out until the river ice breaks up in the spring. Carrie frets and sulks, but Bart soothes her with readings from Thoreau and Whitman, the majestic scenery dazzles her, and the rigors of frontier life give her a bracing sense of self-sufficiency; soon the cabin walls resonate with her and Bart’s sexual raptures. Then, in the months-long winter darkness, Bart leaves for a day’s hunting and doesn’t return–and Carrie’s struggle to survive begins in earnest. Her story intertwines, a bit awkwardly, with the Jack London-ish saga of a wolf named Daredevil, who mercilessly hunts down fawns and then regurgitates them to his hungry pups. Groome is a fluent writer with a gift for evoking setting and character. The novel does have its tedious moments when Carrie and Bart, who is a bland, underdeveloped romantic hero, sit around talking about their relationship, and its climax misfires. But when Groome tests his characters, human and animal, against the wilderness, he moves us with the harshness and beauty of an uncivilized world.
The result is a gripping portrait of life stripped to the bare essentials.
A suspenseful thriller set during the precarious days of the Soviet Union’s collapse.
The story begins with the ouster of President Mikhail Gorbachev at the beginning of the tumultuous end of the Soviet Union. Opportunities and danger abound in a country beaming with possibility but in political disarray. Along the Chizna River, woodsmen tasked with rooting out salmon poachers find themselves up against a particularly ruthless bunch, especially after one of their own is brutally murdered, terrifying the rest. One of the woodsmen, a young teenager named Ivan, strongly suspects that the notorious Russian Mafia is responsible. Meanwhile, a fishing expedition is arranged for a group of American elites eager to take advantage of the opportunity to travel in a Russia less encumbered by restrictions. Jeb Caldwell, a famous American billionaire, is suddenly kidnapped while staying at the same camp where poachers killed Boris, Ivan’s friend. The kidnappers quickly demand a $25 million ransom in exchange for his safe return. Problematically, Caldwell’s wife, Cheryl, no longer has quick access to such a fortune, since her husband has greatly diminished his wealth through his considerable philanthropic efforts. Caldwell’s fishing companions attempt to contact the KGB for assistance, but the agency’s power and reach have been circumscribed by the Soviet Union’s demise. Author Groome deftly braids historical fact and fiction when President George H.W. Bush himself appeals to Yeltsin to intervene when hope is all but lost. Some unusual plot twists help keep the reader guessing while mirroring the volatility of foreign affairs at the time. However, in the complex skein of a plot, the multiple strands take too long to tie together, potentially frustrating the reader. Nevertheless, the double narrative action of the kidnapping and the grand geopolitical drama is compelling. The more those two plotlines intersect, the more intriguing the chaos that ensues from regime change, even if—in this case, perhaps especially if—the revolution points toward liberty or some semblance of it.
A lively kidnapping story that cuts into and reveals a major historical event in international politics.