TALK TO ME by John Kenney
Kirkus Star


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It's a case of death by internet when the fortunes of a beloved network news anchor take a nose dive after a shameful mistake on the set.

Kenney (Truth in Advertising, 2013) opens his modern morality tale with a literal fall—a man jumping from a plane with no plans to open his parachute. As he plummets, he imagines the coverage: "Ted Grayson, the longtime anchor of the evening news, died today in an embarrassing skydiving accident on eastern Long Island. Sources say the disgraced former newsman may have taken his own life. He was fifty-nine." A few weeks earlier, Ted exploded at the young Polish hairstylist on the set, mistaking her smile of excitement for one of ridicule, shouting obscenities and repeatedly calling her a "Russian whore." Video of the incident, which the victim has on her phone, takes just a few days to make it from Facebook to the international news. Among those disturbed by Ted's bizarre, uncharacteristic meltdown are his estranged wife, Claire, who is already filing for divorce, and his even more alienated daughter, Frances. She, too, is a journalist of sorts, working at a site called “scheisse,” where "hundreds of nearly identical-looking people in their twenties and thirties, from fine universities, endless feed of insipid online drivel, a kind of visual and verbal vomit, under the guise of journalism." When her boss asks for a piece on her dad, Frances' poison pen is ready to go. Kenney is able to portray all three of these selfish, damaged family members with depth and sympathy. While it would have been easy to make us hate them all, he achieves the opposite and saves a sweetly ironic twist for a redemptive ending.

A powerful and moving rendition of a story we've been waiting to hear: what it's like to be the bad guy in this ripped-from-the-headlines situation.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-7352-1437-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2018


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