A mix of lurid potboiler and classic bildungsroman, the story is occasionally too knowing for its own good, but its prose is...

SPARKLE LIFE

Shrewd study of four Sex and the City wannabes.

This is a deceptively breezy account of four women whose lives occasionally intersect through the men they know. The therapist for two of them is the uncle of a third; one of them has a brother who wants a job with two of the others; still another ends up married to the man who has starred in one’s political documentary. The novel is episodic, driven by family drama, sexual frustration and drunken tirades at glamorous parties. Despite being organized around fairly momentous events, it is most successful as a character study. The women at its center are relatively talented, relatively successful, relatively young urban hipsters seeking something or someone emotionally powerful enough to overcome their studied irony. Although we’ve seen these anxious, rudderless types before, Lindstrom is unafraid to push them to their limits. Unpleasant characters, for example, don’t learn a lesson about themselves and become chastened; they remain unpleasant even though they become more sympathetic. A talented documentary maker and a driven film producer don’t change the world; they become successful by deciding that personal integrity need never trouble their professional lives. Lindstrom’s great strength is her acerbic, yet strangely affecting understanding that the compromises people make with their ideals tell us more about them than the ideals themselves. The author moves sure-footedly between the stories of the women, but by the end, two of them emerge as the primary characters. In the case of these two especially, Lindstrom creates wonderfully rich personalities and quite distinct and distinctive patterns of speech and thought.

A mix of lurid potboiler and classic bildungsroman, the story is occasionally too knowing for its own good, but its prose is fresh and its insights into the aging-hipster-turned-ambitious-careerwoman are both biting and poignant.

Pub Date: May 23, 2006

ISBN: 1-59051-232-4

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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