An entertaining, if familiar, account of a midlife crisis in America.

THE YEAR MARJORIE MOORE LEARNED TO LIVE

A debut novel unspools one year in the life of a disillusioned and self-destructive woman in a Dallas exurb.

Marjorie Moore is not satisfied. But this is hardly a new development. According to her parents, when she started learning to talk, Marjorie’s first word was “more,” though this might have been due in part to their negligent style. Now, age 40, she has a husband and two kids and lives in an “incomplete house, in an incomplete neighborhood…in Prairie Mound, a suburb of a suburb, near the suburb where she had grown up—but farther away from, rather than closer to, Dallas itself.” She drinks a lot of wine and pops Ambien and Xanax, either because she’s bored or addicted to them (she isn’t quite sure). She works as a receptionist at the local hospital, which makes it easy to get the pills. She’d love to go to Paris, though she finds that her compulsive shopping has been eating up a lot of the family’s financial resources. Really, it only makes sense for her to start selling pills to her friends as a way to make extra cash, and it certainly makes her life a little more interesting. So does renewing an old, flirtatious acquaintance with Stephen Singleton, a friend from high school whom she always had a bit of a crush on. As the months pass, her various secret behaviors become more and more serious, and the reasons that Marjorie has for doing them become less important than the fact that they may cause her to lose everything. Grotheim’s prose is bouncy and biting. She perfectly captures the worldview of Marjorie, who is slightly aware of her self-deluding tendencies (though not as aware of them as readers): “She would have preferred being called Marjorie, which was her given name and sounded sophisticated, like royalty, she thought. Resentful of her parents shortening it to Margie, a fatty’s name when in fact she was not, she had made better choices for her own kids.” The author’s voice and her strong sense of pacing make this a highly readable book even if the subject matter remains well-trod territory.

An entertaining, if familiar, account of a midlife crisis in America.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-942762-46-1

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Heliotrope Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2019

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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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

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