Repetitive as Chloe’s romantic experiences are, they still manage to entertain.


Fate leads to love in this realistic novel of a young woman’s adventures dating online.

Twenty-five-year-old Chloe Thompson, a first-grade teacher in Milwaukee, decides to look for love on the Internet. It’s 2003, and her newly engaged co-worker met her fiance online, so how bad can it be? If Chloe’s first date is a litmus test of the online dating pool, the answer is painfully bad. She plans to meet Scott at an Applebee’s, only to have him show up late, order chicken fingers like a child and reveal that the handsome photo of him on his profile was his senior portrait. When her ex-boyfriend Cliff calls her, she can’t resist letting him come over. She continues clicking on men’s profiles, answering icebreakers, calling strangers: There’s a firefighter who wants phone sex, an enthusiastic Packers fan, and a racist student-teacher who says he knew there was something “chinky” about her. Meanwhile, Chloe’s friends and family—from her brisk Taiwanese mother to her upstanding friend Shelly and wild Jess—offer a mix of skepticism and encouragement. Chloe is charmed when she meets Drew, a nerdy guy who sends her photos of himself in the mail to prove that his scanner is truly broken. He cooks her dinner; he’s good at Scrabble; then he reveals that he kind of has a girlfriend. The news confuses Chloe, who is struggling to avoid Cliff’s troubling advances. When Drew meets Chloe’s friends, the mix of alcohol and drama is unfitting, and Chloe’s friends convince her Drew isn’t as normal as he may seem. She’s able to move on, though, via a stream of other guys met online. On a date with Frank, Chloe bumps into her engaged co-worker, who has startling news about her now ex-fiance. Cliff’s behavior continues to frighten Chloe, leading to a final confrontation that makes everything clear for both of them. Just when Chloe thinks she’s had enough of personal ads and screen names, the advice of a psychic leads her to what could be her best match yet. Anyone who’s been on a first date will find something to sympathize with in the litany of Chloe’s experiences, from the funny to the hopeful. It’s the pain of letting go of Cliff, and all that she learns in watching her friends and family go through their own trials, that makes Chloe truly relatable. The book is thankfully not bogged down by pages of pining for the perfect soul mate. It can, however, be a bit dull reading scene after scene of Chloe and her young friends drinking to excess (several chapters open on a hung-over Chloe in her bed). The novel’s dedication page features a photo of the author’s husband—whom she met online, proving to readers that online dating can indeed lead to happily ever after.

Repetitive as Chloe’s romantic experiences are, they still manage to entertain.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499656572

Page Count: 294

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2014

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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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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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