A grim but emotionally raw portrayal of a harrowing existence.


A debut novel, based on true events, about parental abuse, homelessness, and fatherhood.

One of the unnamed narrator’s earliest memories is of his mother telling him, “You’ve ruined my life.” When he’s 4, she leaves his father for a cruel man who would go on to relentlessly beat, berate, and humiliate him for years. His mother’s indifferent to the abuse and ultimately abandons him, leaving him alone with Seth. He runs away from home and later winds up homeless while barely a teen. His days are somber but have occasional bright spots, such as his friendship with Charlie, a former prisoner of war during World War II who becomes the narrator’s mentor. But Seth’s screaming jeers perpetually run through the narrator’s head, often telling him that he’s worthless. He’s determined to prove his merit by finding paying work or sustaining a long-term relationship. The streets, however, are filled with obstacles, including ever-present gangs and readily available drugs. He has a relationship with a woman named Linda, and everything changes when his son is born. The signs of hope in this often depressing novel are fleeting. That said, the plainspoken prose never portrays graphic violence and typically censors profanity. The white narrator hears racial slurs from African-American and Latino teens, but the author interestingly doesn’t use these scenes to condemn racism, but rather to highlight the protagonist’s lack of a sense of identity. The narrator can be frustratingly subdued at times; for example, he says little about the death of a significant character, including how the person died. But he does leave readers with some indelible passages, such as “I don’t know why some people wind up with Seths and others have trouble believing Seths even exist” and “When I ate ‘shrooms, Seth disappeared—and so did I.”

A grim but emotionally raw portrayal of a harrowing existence.

Pub Date: April 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73097-983-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Kindle Direct Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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