A somewhat contrived but entertaining satire on the different ways of being right.

THE FIRST SUPPER

A TALE OF TWO HOURS

In this droll comedy of manners, sparks fly over a prospective union of two very different conservative families.

When Amanda Worthington brings her latest boyfriend du jour, Brian Grace, home from college, her wealthy, Republican parents, Chuck and Libby, figure that her relationship with the earnest, hunky football player won’t last long. However, a tizzy erupts when Amanda announces that she’s pregnant and plans to marry Brian the next day. Brian is also a Republican, but to the worldly, fashionable, and socially liberal Worthingtons, he’s the wrong kind—a devout Christian who insists that abortion is out of the question and marriage is mandatory. Even worse, he comes from a down-at-the-heels, working-class family. As Chuck strategizes a way to use his money to quash both the wedding and the pregnancy, Libby reels at her ruined plans to make Amanda into an accomplished doctor. The arrival of Brian’s parents intensifies the clash: the Worthingtons are appalled by the Graces’ dowdy clothes, untoned physiques, zealous religiosity, and concealed firearm; the Graces, meanwhile, are scandalized by the Worthingtons’ arctic-white décor, nude statuary, gay chef, and disdain for biblical strictures. As the two families learn more about what divides them, their awkwardness shades toward open enmity—just in time for dinner. Schiff has adapted her novel from her play of the same name, and this fact shows in a certain staginess: the story takes place in a single afternoon and location, the dialogue telegraphs attitudes in efficient shorthand (“do you think he’s one of those…one of those Christians?”), the political schema is somewhat self-conscious, and the characters are stark enough to be legible from the back row. However, Schiff fleshes out these caricatures with plausible interior lives and unexpected nuances; Libby emerges as more than the shallow shopaholic she initially seems to be, and the Graces turn out to be at least as cosmopolitan and socially fluent as the Worthingtons, in their own way. Overall, Schiff’s well-paced prose style combines whip-smart repartée with a sharp, funny knack for social observation, and she manages to infuse psychological depth and emotional resonance into the kulturkampf.

A somewhat contrived but entertaining satire on the different ways of being right.

Pub Date: Dec. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1505332179

Page Count: 170

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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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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