A captivating and complicated coming-of-age tale for fans of surprising heroines.



A novel follows a young mother who is forced to grow up when her husband abruptly abandons her.

Young, beautiful, and sheltered Shelby Carpenter is married to a successful Hollywood stuntman. The book opens as Shelby and her husband, Boyd, mingle with other Tinseltown hotshots at a lavish party in Los Angeles. An attractive and assertive divorcée offers to take Boyd on a tour of the grounds, whereupon he excuses himself from the company of his wife, never to be seen again. Shelby cannot believe that she has been left so suddenly and brazenly by her husband of more than half a decade, but after three long days with no word from Boyd, she begins to accept the truth. She is soon informed by mutual acquaintances that Boyd went to Kenya with his new girlfriend, and before she knows it, she has received divorce papers from his attorney. With no job and very little life experience, Shelby is left to fend for herself and her 8-year-old daughter, Pamela, on her own. Motivated by the responsibility she feels for her daughter, Shelby finds positions as a cocktail waitress and an administrative assistant in a corporate office. As she learns to stand on her own, Shelby meets three men who appeal to different aspects of her personality. Each of the three provides Shelby with emotional support during her most turbulent times as well as varying levels of distraction and sexual fulfillment. Formerly writing under the name MK Landstein, Mitchell (Wasted…Maybe, 2013, etc.) delivers a complex heroine. As the appealing story progresses, Shelby’s feelings for each of the three suitors evolve, along with her sentiments about herself. Throughout the novel, the author provides insightful and compassionate details about the difficulties of single motherhood (“All along she knew she would not allow anything to interfere with Pamela’s world, her self-image and security. Shelby knew she would have to climb out of this hole step by step”). Mitchell also shows how Shelby’s lovely face and friendly demeanor can often function as more of a curse than a blessing. There are many intricate subplots that weave their ways throughout the larger story, rounding out the richness of the narrative. 

A captivating and complicated coming-of-age tale for fans of surprising heroines. 

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4575-4413-2

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Dog Ear

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2016

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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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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