SMART WOMEN

In her popular books for young people, Blume has often worked empathically within a teen frame of reference; and here, though the prime focus is on the highs and histrionics of a trio of 40-ish, divorced professional women in Boulder, Colorado, it's their kids whose common-denominator fears and angers ring true. As for the mothers, they're a rather vacuous and tiresome lot: mother-of-two Margo (solar condo designer) counts up the 17 men she's slept with (including 21-year-old Eric) and has been divorced five years from Freddy, who wanted a Stepford Wife; real-estater Francine—a.k.a. "B.B."—lost her ten-year-old son in a car crash, divorced her journalist-husband, now clings to twelve-year-old daughter Sara; and oil heiress Clare is from Texas, with a philandering ex and a kid named Puffin. The women's men will criss-cross, of course. Thus, Margo is soaking in her hot-tub in her "funky upside down house" when Andrew, B.B.'s attractive ex, slides in on a neighborly visit; they'll soon be lovers. Meanwhile, fringe anorexic B.B., erstwhile friend of Margo, remains off-center with unresolved grief, her hate/need of Andrew, and traumatic family-past relationships: she's hovering near a breakdown. And, as Margo tries to juggle love, lust, and guilts, with B.B. dangerously raging and sulking, their children are adrift in the wake. Sara is slowly absorbed into the Margo/Andrew household—to the disgust of Margo's daughter Michelle, 17. Puffin becomes pregnant by Margo's son Stuart, and Michelle sees her through an abortion. Michelle has her first affair with Eric (Margo's Eric). The kids, often feeling "invisible," weather screaming fights, uprooting of their homes, and wonder why parents can't simply love them. ("You couldn't trust parents. They were only interested in you when they didn't have anyone else. As soon as they had lovers, forget it.") But finally, after B.B. has a near-fatal crackup, there's a flurry of upbeat fadeouts: B.B. is in therapy; Margo's kids, with Sara and Andrew, are beginning to coalesce into a family; there's a wedding in the works; and Margo, in her hot tub, counts her blessings. The kid-talk is convincing, even if the kids themselves are only moderately so. The adults, in or out of Jacuzzi, are flaky, arid, and just plain tiresome. But, like Blume's previous "adult" novel Wifey, this has enough glossy anguish to pull in her readership—with trendy-soap appeal to adolescents of all ages.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 1983

ISBN: 0425206556

Page Count: 354

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1983

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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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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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