Languid plot, self-conscious writing, unappealing protagonists: in all, an uninspired first outing.

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CATCHING HEAVEN

A first novel fulsomely charting the lives of two sisters, smart women who do dumb things until the obligatory life-transforming event makes them wise and contented.

Hall’s protagonists, unfortunately, are so self-centered and obtuse that they evoke irritation rather than sympathy—their respective plights, consequently, seeming less the unfair workings of fate than something well deserved. In her 40s, elder sister Maud, an actress, has been living in L.A. with her lover and trying to succeed in Hollywood. She also desperately wants a baby, but feeling she’s getting nowhere, heads to Marengo, New Mexico, where sister Lizzie lives. Lizzie, who has three children by three different men, is an artist who teaches at a local college and also illustrates greeting cards. She’s opted for single motherhood but might have changed her mind if Jake, the father of Theo, her youngest, hadn’t fled town once he heard she was pregnant. Maud finds work singing in a nightclub, and the two sisters, always jealous of each other, settle into an edgy relationship. Jake, a songwriter and computer expert, is also back in town and wants to make amends, but Lizzie isn’t ready yet to forgive him for his desertion. While she tries to find herself, Maud sleeps with a Native American activist, then with Rich, the young cowboy boyfriend of Jeep (Liz’s babysitter), then gets a starring role in the local drama production. Meanwhile, she’s also drawn to Jake, who’s similarly tempted. Jeep’s attempted suicide after finding she’s pregnant, and the death of Sam, an old lover and tenant of Lizzie’s, seem tossed in to add drama to a sagging narrative. Family ties will win out, while other affirming connections and insights will enable Maud and Lizzie finally to act smart before it’s too late.

Languid plot, self-conscious writing, unappealing protagonists: in all, an uninspired first outing.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-345-43970-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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