An often intriguing story, despite a few too many plot elements, that shows the disparate ways that speech therapy can help...

Speaking in Tungs

In Jay’s debut novel, a speech therapist moves to the small town of Tungston, Pennsylvania—locally known as “Tungs”—and finds colorful characters and a little mystery.

At 24, Marleigh Benning’s life is in upheaval: after the sudden death of her mother and father, she discovers they weren’t actually her biological parents. It turns out that she was adopted at the age of 2, and all she knows now are her biological parents’ names and her own original birthplace: Tungs. Impulsively, she pulls up stakes in California and moves to the tiny town, pursuing her ongoing dream of helping people with speech problems. Her patients are a motley crew, such as raspy-voiced Ivory, who won’t stop gossiping long enough to let her vocal cords rest; Luella, who lives with her sister, Margritte, in a trailer full of chickens, trying to avoid another bout of aspiration pneumonia; and Melvin, whose ability to speak was twisted by a stroke and who now can only curse. Another patient, Casey, is a little boy who’d rather act like a dog and babble nonsense than speak to his frustrated mother, who isn’t thrilled by Marleigh’s fix-it attitude. There’s also Beryl Holmes, a cantankerous veteran who refuses to work with Marleigh when she accidentally lets his beloved (and deaf) dog loose. As if all this wasn’t enough, police are seeking a fugitive in the area, there have also been wolf sightings of late, and Marleigh is falling for hunky local fireman Lawyer Hunt—or possibly local doctor Parker York. Marleigh’s patients come across as three-dimensional people, and the details of her speech therapy work are fascinating, aided as they are by Jay’s real-life years in the field. Other aspects of the novel, however, are a little lackluster. Both the romance and the mystery seem unnecessary, for example. It also doesn’t seem plausible that Marleigh wouldn’t immediately start searching for information about her birth parents—particularly when it’s the primary reason for her move.

An often intriguing story, despite a few too many plot elements, that shows the disparate ways that speech therapy can help people regain their voices.

Pub Date: May 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9961950-6-5

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Hedgehog & Fox

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2015

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


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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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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