Happy families are all alike, which is why, even on the beach, they can be a bore.

PORCH LIGHTS

Frank’s latest is her usual warmhearted look at grief, healing and South Carolina coastal life.       

Jackie McMullen, an Army nurse, is relieved from her deployment in Afghanistan when she becomes the sole support of her 10-year-old son, Charlie. Her husband, Jimmy, a New York City firefighter, was killed in the line of duty.  Her mother, Annie Britt, insists Jackie bring Charlie, who is deeply depressed after the loss of his father, to summer at the “Salty Dog,” the Britts’ Sullivan’s Island home. Although Charlie takes immediately to Lowcountry beachcombing, Jackie is unsettled by her mother’s obvious crush on Steve, the widowed dermatologist next door, who, Jackie notes ruefully, would rather flirt with daughter than mother. Annie is still married to Jackie’s father, Buster, although they have lived apart for 11 years (ever since Buster embarked on an extended fishing trip). But the presence of his only grandson lures Buster back to the Salty Dog, as does, although he won’t admit it, rekindled passion for Annie since her recent overhaul by a Charleston makeover maven. When Charlie himself (channeling Annie’s fondest wish) starts angling to stay on Sullivan’s Island instead of returning to Brooklyn, Jackie is torn. Jimmy’s grave is in New York, and her mother can still push every one of her buttons, for example when she insists on telling Charlie morbid Edgar Allen Poe tales right before bedtime. The sudden death of a neighbor, the husband of Annie’s best friend Deb, triggers a vicarious crisis that soon has the Britt family rethinking its priorities. Jackie and Doctor Steve, of course, both glimpse the possibility of moving on from loss together. Although leavened with wry humor, particularly in the sections narrated by Annie, the story stumbles under the weight of too many clichés. Moreover, Frank’s target demographic may be put off by the portrayal of Annie and other aging Boomers as positively geriatric.

Happy families are all alike, which is why, even on the beach, they can be a bore.

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-196129-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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

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