Books by Suzanne Strempek Shea

Released: April 1, 2008

"Succeeds all too well in the author's mission to make us understand how similar churches are to one another."
An ultimately numbing odyssey into modern-day American Christianity. Read full book review >
BECOMING FINOLA by Suzanne Strempek Shea
Released: June 1, 2004

"An engaging tale, deftly crafted and plotted, with plenty of Irish whimsy, charm, and blarney."
Shea forsakes her usual subject, Polish-Americans in Massachusetts (Around Again, 2001, etc.), to portray a single American woman taking on a new life in a small Irish village. Read full book review >
AROUND AGAIN by Suzanne Strempek Shea
Released: July 10, 2001

"Bleached of genuine drama or human interest, an excellent driving-in-the-car-while-looking-for-parking-place-near-the-beach read."
Shea's lackluster fourth (Lily of the Valley, 1999, etc.) follows a woman's recollection of a formative summer on a pony farm—when her best friend kidnapped a baby and stole her boyfriend. Read full book review >
HOOPI SHOOPI DONNA by Suzanne Strempek Shea
Released: June 1, 1996

A worthy follow-up (titled after the American pronunciation of a Polish polka) to Shea's promising debut (Selling the Lite of Heaven, 1994); again, the author captures the spirit of an insular Polish-Catholic community and homes in on one unforgettable family. Donna Milewski is a relatively content 14-year-old—until her parents decide to adopt her cousin, six-year-old Elzbieta—the daughter of Donna's father's brother, who can no longer support his family back in Poland. Donna is ambivalent about the newcomer (called Betty in Massachusetts), but when Betty follows Donna on her first date and gets them both hit by an out-of-control truck, her happy existence abruptly ends. In the accident's aftermath, Donna gets blamed for being irresponsible, Betty—thought to have saved Donna—becomes a heroine, and the media goes crazy over the brave immigrant child who risked all to save her new ``sister,'' even giving the Milewskis a new home. No one bothers to ask Donna what happened (and she can't speak for six weeks, her broken jaw wired shut), so it's never discovered that it was Donna who saved Betty—and no one believes her when she later tries to explain. Meanwhile, Donna's father immediately transfers all his affections to Betty—for reasons unexplained. Although both girls recover physically, once Donna graduates from high school she moves out of her parents' house and never speaks to her father again. It will take his death—and an all-girl polka band she forms on an old friend's suggestion—before she can finally come to terms with her father, Betty, the accident, and a romance that's been waiting right next door. Until the ludicrous finale, when Betty's sister Aniela, a Donna look-alike from Poland, appears and offers a highly implausible rationale for Donna's father's inexcusable behavior, this is a sometimes rollicking, sometimes heartbreaking, effectively quirky read. (Author tour; radio satellite tour) Read full book review >
SELLING THE LITE OF HEAVEN by Suzanne Strempek Shea
Released: June 15, 1994

Shea's first novel offers an entertaining and sympathetic portrait of a woman who must come to terms with her own life when her fiancÇ realizes he wants to make the trip to the altar alone— to become a priest. Kind, hard-working, handsome Eddie Balicki seemed like a dream come true when he returned to his hometown in western Massachusetts and appeared at church one Sunday morning. Now all the narrator has left of him is a 2.75-karat engagement ring, which she is trying to sell through a personal ad in the Penny Saver. The ad brings to her parents' home a parade of prospective buyers, from a pair of 40ish sisters to Andy Ligawiec, the fellow who might have become her boyfriend in high school (had her mother allowed her to have one), to Randy, who gradually becomes a friend by following up his initial viewing of the ring with more than six months of almost weekly calls. While observing her occasional guests and reviewing highlights of her relationship with Eddie, the narrator casts a perceptive eye over her life as the ``shy, unquestioning daughter who did what she was told.'' She explores her Polish-Catholic community and particularly the foibles of her own family, rendering details so vividly that you can all but hear the noise of a house packed with relatives on a holiday and smell the cabbage that cooks almost daily in her mother's kitchen. By the end of the book the narrator, who is anonymous throughout, has become a woman about to create a name for herself. A promising debut that with shrewdness and a lively display of humor reminds us just how much drama there can be in the everyday. Read full book review >