Austen would have approved: astringency with a happy ending.

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THE DEARLY DEPARTED

Another sharply observed, if avowedly romantic, comedy of manners from Lipman (The Ladies’ Man, 1999, etc.), an unreconstructed Janeite.

Sunny Batten gets jolting news from the King George, New Hampshire, police. Her mother has died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, thanks to a faulty furnace. “She and her fiancé didn’t suffer,” the police chief tells her gently over the phone. Sunny—short for Sondra but unreflective of her general outlook on life—is devastated. Though they’d been living apart (college, a series of jobs), she and her mother had always been emotionally close. Or so she’d thought. But when she recovers enough to contemplate something other than her horrific loss, she finds that little in her mother's actual world corresponds to her own idea of it. Fiancé? How could there possibly be such a person when Sunny knew nothing of his existence? In the days that follow she learns much about Margaret Batten that comes as a surprise. Miles Finn, the putative fiancé, had in fact been her mother’s secret lover for well over 30 years. In addition, there is every likelihood that his relationship to Sunny herself was weightier than she had at first been led to believe. And that being the case, certain ancillary conclusions are unavoidable. At the funeral, for instance—the double funeral, that is—Fletcher Finn, son of the deceased Miles, a brash young man only slightly younger than 31-year-old Sunny, materializes—disconcertingly. Which is to say that his resemblance to her is so striking that the assembled King George folks gasp collectively, leaving Sunny to consider the sudden, unnerving possibility of siblinghood. But not every revelation is disquieting. This is Lipman, after all, and the sensitive, kind police chief turns out to be Joey Loach, who sometimes sat behind Sunny—rather yearningly—in high school study hall.

Austen would have approved: astringency with a happy ending.

Pub Date: June 19, 2001

ISBN: 0-679-46312-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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