THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS by Mary Mackey

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Mackey (McCarthy's List, The Last Warrior Queen) weighs in with a dull story of three generations of actresses. Way back in 1912, the Kessler family is knocking them dead in New York vaudeville. Originally from Germany, there are father Deitrich, mother Yvette, brother and sister Conrad and Viola. Things take an upturn artistically and financially when Yvette goes onstage with the great Sarah Bernhardt, and then plays Lady Macbeth in a critically acclaimed production--which ends in sad tragedy when one of Yvette's tapers catches her nightgown on fire and she burns to death. The next thing we know, young Viola is grown tip and trodding the boards in Berlin in the 1920's. She marries a brilliant playwright named Joseph Rothe and together they fight the rise of the Nazis. In the meantime, she acts brilliantly in his polemical plays, but, naturally, the Nazis don't take fondly to this: they murder Joseph and drive Viola to England by burning down her theater (shades of Yvette's fate). Once in London, she marries an idealistic English lord who dies fighting in Spain; then she makes the mistake of returning to Germany just before the war and is used as propaganda by the fascists. Her name isn't cleared until her daughter, Kathe, becomes an early star of television in New York and melodramatically brings Viola on TV to plead her case, after which Viola's career gets back on track. The novel ends with the rather hasty and pointless inclusion of the story of Kathe's daughter, Mandy, a brat-pack actress who nearly dies in a helicopter crash in Mexico. The title tells it all, unfortunately: Mackey apparently didn't have the strength to go beyond the tiredest of clichÉs in naming her novel; this lack of imagination pervades the book.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1988
Publisher: Simon & Schuster