A hackneyed concept which gains little in this tepid treatment.

KINDRED SPIRITS

Three women carry out the last wishes of their friend, discovering secrets, shedding inhibitions and inventing new martinis along the way.

To combat PTA pettiness, four friends, all residing in the idyllic lakeside town of Marshfield, Conn., are inspired by a musty cookbook, penned by a long-ago Marshfield clubwoman, to form the Ladies Society for the Conservation of Martinis. They bond over Cosmos, Blue Martinis and classic James Bond or Rat Pack concoctions while battling various crises in their lives. Now, though, the crises have the upper hand. Carol precipitously left her husband Jeff to resume her legal career in New York City, resulting in an ill-considered divorce. Now her ex-husband is insisting on selling their Marshfield house, and Carol’s daughter Amanda is not speaking to her. Mary Kay, who raised her orphaned niece Tiffany as her own, has been concealing her infertility from her live-in partner and soon-to-be fiancé, Drake. Beth is juggling her ailing elderly father’s health issues with no assistance, only criticism, from a controlling out-of-town sister. Worst of all, the society’s founder, Lynne, has run out of options in her battle against cancer. Employing a combination of Blue Martinis and morphine, she commits suicide, leaving a letter for her friends to find. That letter instructs them to look for the daughter that, as a teenager in Pennsylvania, Lynne had been forced to give up for adoption. The women track down Lynne’s mother and aunt, and thanks to Beth’s skills as a librarian, turn up a crucial clue that Lynne herself had withheld. As they zero in on their quarry, spreading unwelcome news all over Pennsylvania, the women have plenty of opportunity to indulge in all manner of martinis (recipes included). The lighthearted conventions of the midlife girl-power road trip (no driving while intoxicated depicted) often clash with the downright depressing subject matter, as the myriad ways in which parents, spouses and children can become estranged are picked apart. 

A hackneyed concept which gains little in this tepid treatment.

Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-525-95222-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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