Pleasant enough in a punny way, but awfully British. Lots of sex to compensate for the lame jokes.

SPIN CYCLE

Can a divorced stand-up comedienne find happiness with a washing-machine repairman?

Sure, says the author of Neurotica (1999)—particularly when her dentist fiancé is away in South Africa. Rachel Katz isn’t positive she wants to marry Adam anyway, even if her mum is busily planning the wedding. Oh, well. Adam makes a good living even if he is deadly dull and prone to nosebleeds; and, despite her dreams of glory, Rachel isn’t exactly setting audiences on fire at the Anarchist Bathmat comedy club. Shelley, her best friend and neighbor, a health-food nut with gigantic bosoms, lends a sympathetic ear. Freewheeling Shelley isn’t sure Rachel should marry Adam, either. Rachel’s ten-year-old son Sam is indifferent, but he doesn’t really think about anything except his growing collection of Barbra Streisand records. Is it possible he’s gay like his father? Rachel frets over this until Matt Clapton, a hunky washing-machine repairman, becomes a distraction. He thinks she’s hysterically funny, and he’s happy to be her (cough, cough) handyman. Rachel feels a few pangs of guilt for cheating, but she reasons that it doesn’t matter since she and Adam hardly ever had sex. She’s got other things to worry about: her mum is having a bikini wax and shopping for revealing underwear. What on earth? Then she catches her parents doing something wild with another elderly couple! The truth comes out: Mum and Dad are baring their wrinkly bottoms for a how-to sex video for seniors. Oh, well. No big deal compared to the latest news flash from South Africa: Adam’s dumping her for an anorexic dental hygienist who starches her underwear. Rachel can’t worry about that now: she’s getting ready for a big comedy competition, which she just might win if an Aussie upstart doesn’t steal all her material. Life goes on, and so do the silly contrivances.

Pleasant enough in a punny way, but awfully British. Lots of sex to compensate for the lame jokes.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2001

ISBN: 0-440-50923-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delta

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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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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