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The Bennett Women

Despite its sometimes too-neat storyline, readers may find merit in this novel’s exploration of the challenges of aging...

In this novel set in 2012, a harrowing health scare for a family matriarch spurs emotional crises for her Fortune 500 company CEO daughter and musically talented granddaughter.

Muriel Bennett, a grandmother with a quick wit and a steadfast dedication to her own independence, has lived for decades in her cherished Pacific Northwest lakeside home. One day, her best friend, Catherine, discovers her barely conscious on her kitchen floor. While recovering in the hospital from what’s revealed to be a collapsed lung, Muriel’s condition prompts her successful, no-nonsense daughter Susanne to make the drastic, controversial decision to move Muriel to an assisted living facility. Before that move materializes, Susanne’s cello-playing daughter, Lilia—who’s hurt that she wasn’t called about Muriel’s health turn—intervenes with an alternate plan to keep Muriel at home, near the friends she dearly loves. As tensions come to a head, Muriel’s good friend Benjamin is involved in a fatal accident, which makes the book’s tempo falter. Eventually, the Bennett women’s disagreements uncover old pains surrounding Susanne’s brother’s death in the Vietnam War and a dark secret that’s long weighed on Lilia. In this novel, Carr (The Foundation, 2014, etc.) paints a portrait of three family generations that’s often pleasantly paced. However, it’s sometimes overly reliant on summary, and some plot developments strain believability, such as when Susanne’s Vietnamese translator and guide winds up showing her the very site where her brother was killed. The dialogue tends to favor easy aphorism over specificity (“You get one shot at life, Lilia,” says Muriel. “Please carve out one that brings you joy”), giving the novel the cadence of a well-worn fable, instead of a story about a particular family. Midway through the novel, however, Carr introduces a plotline that offers supporting dramatic tension, involving Lilia’s attraction to Benjamin’s handsome, computer-whiz grandson, Matthew, and their will-they-or-won’t-they dance.

Despite its sometimes too-neat storyline, readers may find merit in this novel’s exploration of the challenges of aging loved ones. 

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-44979-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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