Britisher Craig’s US debut is a perspicacious relationship drama, with some nicely researched academic touches for the...


A seething, hollowed-out, soon-to-be-divorced actor is obsessed by his dead mother’s fairy tales.

Laura Perry, the mother of narrator Benedick Hunter, was an American in 1960s London and a children’s book illustrator of some repute when she hanged herself after her handsome columnist husband left her for another woman. Benedick, nearly 40, mostly unemployed, and suspended by an emotional thread after his own novelist wife left him (with their two small children) to live with her posh publisher, stumbles again upon his mother’s North of Nowhere stories with their eerie, haunting illustrations. In his leisurely state of self-loathing and despair, he sets out to unearth the true story behind her suicide by following the shadowy lead of her grim fairy tales of innocent, virtuous girls lured into the dark wood (Craig acknowledges her debt to the work of Ellen Handler Spitz, Alison Lurie, and Marina Warner). His reckless quest takes him and his son Cosmo to the wilderness of the States, to New York City, and to the original woods of “the Carolinas,” where Craig can let fly her criticisms of American obesity, automatic cars, and fast food. While Benedick’s children are scene-stealers, the younger women in his life, including his wife and the predatory singles who call him relentlessly, are shredded maliciously. Benedick’s tempestuous moods are effectively, even amusingly, delineated, and despite his swampy self-pity (his successful father is “a wicked old bastard who has never loved me”), the reader ends up cheering for him when he meets his charming southern cousin Rose, a dead-ringer for his mother. Disastrously, Benedick learns that he suffers from manic-depression, but his bad moods, with medication, vanish like magic—rendering most disappointing the requisite hospital ending of this neatly written emotional saga.

Britisher Craig’s US debut is a perspicacious relationship drama, with some nicely researched academic touches for the literary set.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-50262-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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


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

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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

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