Neither funny nor insightful enough to rise above the crowd of similar plots.


Pennebaker’s first novel attempts to join the recession-hit chic-lit mini-boomlet with her comedy about an Austin, Texas, divorcée struggling to live under one roof with her adolescent daughter and aging mother.

About to turn 50, Joanie has still not fully adjusted to her divorce two years earlier from lawyer Richard. In fact, she’s sworn off sex all together. Given that this is supposedly a book about hard times, Joanie’s financial situation, even how much Richard is paying in child support, remains vague. After having unbelievably little trouble getting an ad-agency job after years as a stay-at-home mom, she evinces only disdain for the actual work, not to mention her much younger colleagues, and only limited concern over job security. Meanwhile, her personal life is one irritation after another. Her 15-year-old daughter Caroline has turned typically adolescent: impatient, hostile, secretive and mildly rebellious. Not so much unpopular as invisible to her high-school peers, Caroline experiments with cigarettes, pot and wildly dyed hair but remains basically a good girl. Joanie’s aging mother Ivy, who has had to leave her West Texas home and move in with Joanie for financial reasons, is outspoken in disparaging both daughter and granddaughter, and although she’s supposed to be a reactionary shrew, her criticism seems pretty accurate. Her intolerance covers aching loneliness, and the novel’s best scene occurs when Caroline and her only friend bake pot brownies that Ivy devours à la mode. As Ivy’s health fails, Joanie’s brother, Ivy’s blatant favorite, doesn’t visit or lift a finger to help. Richard announces that his much younger girlfriend is expecting a baby and then is out of town on business the rest of the novel. Pennebaker’s male characters are so undeveloped that even in their villainy they seem irrelevant. The novel’s one half-decent guy, Joanie’s co-worker, becomes a lukewarm love interest at best. Eventually, of course, female camaraderie is achieved among the three generations.

Neither funny nor insightful enough to rise above the crowd of similar plots.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-425-23856-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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