Chilly and pretentious fictionalizing of a devastating disease.

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STATE OF HAPPINESS

A cartographer and big-selling author charts the progress of her cancer.

Despite her babyish first name, Cindy Frier is no giddy scribbler of contemporary fluff. What’s in a name, anyway? In British author Duffy’s latest (Wavewalker, 1996, etc.), the answer is everything. Cindy wrote her thesis on the hidden meaning of maps and mapmaking. (For confused readers, the forced connection here is place names.) Then she turned it into an acclaimed book with the pretentious and oddly punctuated title Dis-Location—the function of space over time: Naming as Generation. (Should anyone doubt the worth of this unlikely bestseller, arcane quotes from it preface each chapter.) Apparently a “hungry public” just can’t get enough of the hitherto-unplumbed subject of mapmaking metaphysics, or of Cindy’s incredible ability to combine “measured truths with potential magic.” Other fun facts about Cindy: She’s only 26. She has great skin. She likes to munch on pistachios, which she keeps in her pocket. In other words, she’s sort of real. Prickly by nature and resentful of her fame, Cindy warms up to working-class, mixed-race British reporter Jack Stratton at a Manhattan party. For some inexplicable reason, he’s given a TV news show of his very own shortly thereafter, in Los Angeles. The lovers move to southern California, while Cindy thinks deep and generally incomprehensible thoughts on the meaning of that journey, with a few nods to all journeys made by humanity throughout time, etc. But it’s not long before Cindy is diagnosed with breast cancer and turns to creating a detailed physical and psychological map of that experience, from the devouring of the body to the corrosive effect upon the soul. Duffy, herself a survivor of breast cancer, spares no details.

Chilly and pretentious fictionalizing of a devastating disease.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-32541-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2004

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Anyone who believes in true love or is simply willing to accept it as the premise of a winding tale will find this debut an...

ONE DAY IN DECEMBER

True love flares between two people, but they find that circumstances always impede it.

On a winter day in London, Laurie spots Jack from her bus home and he sparks a feeling in her so deep that she spends the next year searching for him. Her roommate and best friend, Sarah, is the perfect wing-woman but ultimately—and unknowingly—ends the search by finding Jack and falling for him herself. Laurie’s hasty decision not to tell Sarah is the second painful missed opportunity (after not getting off the bus), but Sarah’s happiness is so important to Laurie that she dedicates ample energy into retraining her heart not to love Jack. Laurie is misguided, but her effort and loyalty spring from a true heart, and she considers her project mostly successful. Perhaps she would have total success, but the fact of the matter is that Jack feels the same deep connection to Laurie. His reasons for not acting on them are less admirable: He likes Sarah and she’s the total package; why would he give that up just because every time he and Laurie have enough time together (and just enough alcohol) they nearly fall into each other’s arms? Laurie finally begins to move on, creating a mostly satisfying life for herself, whereas Jack’s inability to be genuine tortures him and turns him into an ever bigger jerk. Patriarchy—it hurts men, too! There’s no question where the book is going, but the pacing is just right, the tone warm, and the characters sympathetic, even when making dumb decisions.

Anyone who believes in true love or is simply willing to accept it as the premise of a winding tale will find this debut an emotional, satisfying read.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-57468-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A bright, funny, hopeful tale of untangling family knots.

THE STAR-CROSSED SISTERS OF TUSCANY

For generations, the second-born daughters of the Fontana family have been cursed with loveless lives. Can Emilia and her cousin Lucy finally break the spell?

Enraged that her beautiful younger sister might have beguiled her boyfriend, Filomena Fontana cast the curse long ago. Since then, family lore has held that every second-born daughter is doomed. Two hundred years later, Emilia and her older sister, Daria, scoffed. That is, until 7-year-old Emilia had to make a family tree for her social studies class and noticed the inescapable truth: There were no marriages among the second daughters. Even her free-spirited cousin Lucy, herself a second daughter, can’t manage to keep a boyfriend past the fourth date. Now pushing 30 and still single, Emilia’s resigned to her fate of working in the family bakery and living in her tiny third-floor apartment in the family home in Bensonhurst, aka Brooklyn’s Little Italy. Her Nonna Rose rules the roost with an iron first, watching Emilia’s every move and even banning her from communicating with her mysterious Great Aunt Poppy, herself a second daughter and the only relative willing to talk about Emilia’s late mother. But when Poppy sends Emilia and Lucy an invitation for an all-expenses-paid trip to Italy—and promises that she can break the curse—how can Emilia refuse? Nonna might be furious, but the possibility of learning more about her own mother makes up Emilia’s mind for her. Once in Italy, Emilia and Lucy discover the truth about not only the curse, but also themselves, not to mention Poppy’s own secrets. Spielman (Sweet Forgiveness, 2015, etc.) deftly spins Emilia’s story, layering in the backstory of how Poppy and Rose immigrated to America, with Rose following her husband, Alfonso, but Poppy losing the love of her life. Or did she? Along the way, Spielman twists our fairy-tale expectations about love, curses, and happy endings.

A bright, funny, hopeful tale of untangling family knots.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0316-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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