An amusing work, improved by the irresistible talking dogs.

NOSE DOWN, EYES UP

In Markoe’s latest comic novel (Walking in Circles Before Lying Down, 2006, etc.), a 47-year-old California dude learns some life lessons—mostly from his pet.

Handyman/housesitter Gil has come to terms with his lack of ambition. And why not? He has the run of a Malibu estate when the owners are away and a casual relationship with hippie Sara, and the time always seems right for a beer. To top it off, Gil has just acquired an interesting skill: He can communicate with his dogs. The how and why of this miracle is quickly passed over, but never mind, because by page seven the four dogs are full-blown characters. Much of the novel’s comedy comes from alpha dog Jimmy, who gives the equivalent of Tony Robbins’ self-actualizing seminars to neighborhood pooches. On love, Jimmy holds forth: “It’s the big emotion behind snack time…It’s the reason why someone will take you for a walk.” So enlightening is his lecture “Edible or Inedible?” that Gil begins a blog for Jimmy. But Jimmy’s newfound fan base means nothing. He is reeling from the discovery that Gil is not his biological father and demands to meet his birthmother Gypsy, now living with Gil’s ex-wife Eden. Gil is all about maintaining the status quo, but everything changes when he has to move out of his house for a few weeks. Sara thinks this will be a perfect time for them to improve their relationship (couples counseling is involved), but after a few claustrophobic days he moves into Eden’s guesthouse, hired by her new husband Chad to renovate the place. Sara is livid; Jimmy is thrilled to be back with his “real” family; Chad makes Gil his new confidant; and the slightly evil Eden convinces Gil that conjugal rights extend to exes. It’s only when catastrophe hits that Gil begins to admit what a screw-up he’s been and hopes it’s not too late to save everything he loves.

An amusing work, improved by the irresistible talking dogs.

Pub Date: Dec. 30, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-345-50020-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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