A complex, absorbing, and occasionally moving read.

CHRISTMAS IN JULY

A thoroughly unsentimental novel told from 10 different perspectives, all having at their center Beatrice (who renames herself “Christmas”), a 13-year-old dying of cancer.

Parker sets himself a difficult task here—telling the story of a young girl with cancer in a way that doesn’t try to wring a cheap emotional response from readers. What makes this easier is the character of Christmas herself, who is at times wise, opinionated, angry, recalcitrant, sarcastic, and mean. The narrative is told in fragments by 10 people who have come in contact with Christmas, often in extraordinarily brief encounters. The facts are simple: Christmas Danzig has recently been put in the care of her Aunt Nikki because her father, Otto, has died, and her “wide-eyed, dipshit, junkie mother” is unable to care for her. Far from being grateful, Christmas runs away and winds up encountering a variety of characters, some good-hearted and others merely eccentric. Parker is a master of tonal complexity, for these encounters can range from the hilarious to the poignant to the enigmatic, often within the same story. One of Christmas’ most moving encounters doesn’t even involve physically meeting another character but rather corresponding with Dorothy, a woman who’s started the Dear Dorothy blog about The Wizard of Oz. When Christmas posts that she wants to meet the woman behind the blog, a correspondence develops that opens Dorothy up emotionally—until she discovers that her boyfriend has been faking some of Christmas’ letters. In another story a woman named Evie feverishly prepares for GlitterFest, a subculture that gives meaning to her life, and only at the very end of the story does Christmas appear and express a desire to see the show. The final story, from the perspective of Aunt Nikki and written after Christmas’ death, provides a more thorough overview of Christmas’ life and of her effect, both good and bad, on others.

A complex, absorbing, and occasionally moving read.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945814-46-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dzanc

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more