Often pedestrian, sometimes engrossing, much like Facebook itself.

WITH JUST ONE CLICK...

Strong uses the brave new world of social networking to explore the timeless themes of love, betrayal, jealousy and friendship.

Chloe is a successful Manhattan professional in her early 30s. By day, she works her dream job as a film critic for a major entertainment magazine; by night, she hangs out with a glamorous gossip-columnist roommate and supportive fashion-designer best friend. Her social and professional lives are in order, but her romantic life is a consistent disappointment—until a hesitant foray into Facebook leads to an unexpected reunion. A few states away, Morgan has settled into a stable if mundane routine. She takes care of her two young children, keeps house and fills her downtime with Facebook. It’s an activity that allows her to express herself outside the confines of her home, but also allows her to obsessively follow her husband’s Facebook activities—specifically his interactions with a certain ex-girlfriend. It is unfortunate that Morgan’s ability to keep tabs on her husband far outweighs her ability to say anything particularly noteworthy on the public site. Strong dutifully records Morgan’s day-to-day postings, but it’s unclear whether she’s making a comment on modern oversharing or simply filling her novel with the type of minutiae that already clogs the Internet. Brynn is also a dedicated wife and mother, but at 40, with her two children well into their teens and her husband consumed by work, she feels increasingly isolated. Once again, Facebook becomes a source of both tension and relief. Brynn escapes her dissatisfaction by writing to a high school boyfriend, but when the relationship goes beyond the virtual, Brynn is caught between following her desires and protecting her family. What do these women have in common? A lot more than we think, as it turns out, but most importantly, they all use Facebook to express their most significant emotions. One character even proposes marriage through a “status update.” But Strong doesn’t sufficiently examine the total lack of separation between virtual and actual communication in her characters’ lives. The reader may wish that these women would get off the computer and talk to one another.

Often pedestrian, sometimes engrossing, much like Facebook itself.

Pub Date: March 23, 2011

ISBN: 978-1257092406

Page Count: 339

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2011

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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