An appealing comedy delivers many laugh-out-loud moments for the reader who has dealt with a fractious toddler or attempted...

Daddy 3.0

A COMEDY OF ERRORS

A debut book chronicles the improvement of a fictional dad from the 1.0 to 3.0 versions.

When the San Francisco–based web startup company that Nick Owen works for goes belly up at the same time his wife accepts an orthopedic residency in New York City, he decides to stay at home with their 3-year-old twin daughters, at least until he can land a new job. Unfortunately, finding a position that actually pays well proves to be more problematic than he anticipated. While at first he feels overwhelmed by his full-time paternal responsibilities and alienated from his fellow stay-at-home parents (exclusively moms), Nick gradually finds his niche. Rather than being cowed by Supermom, the doyenne of the Hospital Family Association, he challenges her supremacy. Supermom, whose name is never revealed, transitions from disapproval toward Nick to outright antipathy; however, some of her cadre of friends—the cleverly nicknamed Good Heart (for her kindness) and Nifty-Fifty Wife (not explained)—come to appreciate his unique approach to parenting. If his wife, Liz, vacillates among hostility, resentment, and occasional approval, her parents are unrelentingly critical of Nick. His friendships with chef Wolfie, a friend since his undergraduate days at Berkeley, and new friend, Kelly, a gorgeous recent divorcée, buoy his spirits immeasurably. Kelly, since her divorce, feels as equally isolated from her friends as Nick does from the Hospital Family moms; however, as their friendship strays into more emotional territory, it adds additional tension to his already strained marriage. In his hilarious book, Armstrong, a Wharton School graduate–turned–stay-at-home dad, makes Nick a tremendously appealing, amusing, self-deprecating character. It is easy to understand why the hero manages to win over his critics. In contrast, Supermom is reminiscent of the popular queen bee at every high school, with a little added intelligence to make her more successful with her underhandedness. The author deftly evokes the negative side of city life with toddlers—few places for free play, the daily hassles of navigating a stroller on city streets, cramped apartments, etc.—that transforms Manhattan into more of a cage than an urban oasis.

An appealing comedy delivers many laugh-out-loud moments for the reader who has dealt with a fractious toddler or attempted to cope as an outsider in any type of clique.

Pub Date: July 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9975881-0-1

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Gear Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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

SUMMER ISLAND

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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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