FAIR WARNING by Robert Olen Butler
Kirkus Star


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Smart variations on the life of a single woman in New York.

In 40-year-old Amy Dickerson, Pulitzer Prize–winner Butler (Mr. Spaceman, 2000, etc.) has created one of the more fascinating female protagonists in recent history. A willowy beauty and former model with brains and attitude to spare, Amy is one of the chief auctioneers at Nichols and Gray, a prestigious but lower-profile auction house in New York City. With just the right mix of knowledge, humor, and flirtatiousness, she eggs on the men-with-too-much-money who come for the art objects she peddles. Not one with a lot of patience for relationships, she is nevertheless soon smitten with two men who don’t bore her as soon as guys often do: “[One of the jokes] Nature plays on women—at least this woman—is to increase one’s desire for sex while decreasing one’s tolerance for boring men.” Trevor, whose mother has just died, enlists Amy’s services to auction off her collection of Victoriana; they share Chinese food and an elevator quickie. Another romantic possibility is Alain, the perfectly urbane millionaire French businessman with exquisite taste in just about everything. His company is set on purchasing Nichols and Gray, and he seems to want to add Amy to his collection of beautiful things. At the same time, Amy is forced to help mediate the familial problems of her touchy younger sister Missy and deal with their mother’s sudden desire to auction off every one of their late father’s possessions, all still cluttering up her dark Houston home. Expanded from a story Butler wrote for Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope magazine—a piece that later went on to win a National Magazine Award for fiction—Fair Warning occasionally seems underplotted, but with a character this compelling, that’s actually a virtue. Amy is an almost perfect heroine: aristocratic but grounded, learned, witty, and just a touch ruthless.

A bracing antidote to the legions of helplessly neurotic heroines cluttering up novels of late.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-87113-833-6
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2001


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