An impressively intelligent and buoyantly written novel.


A fictionalized diary of real-life socialite Kathleen Agnes Kennedy (1920-1948) offers her thoughts on family, geopolitics, and love.

The narrator, nicknamed “Kick,” is born into extraordinary wealth and privilege as part of the Kennedy family. In this depiction, she’s shown to be a precocious observer of human affairs from an early age. When her father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., is appointed ambassador to Great Britain, she moves with him to London and rubs shoulders with the likes of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, and the British royal family. Her dad, however, is an “outspoken anti-Semite” who tries to convince Jewish, anti-Nazi Hollywood producers that gentile Americans would blame Jewish people for dragging the country into a bloody conflict abroad. He also gullibly believes Adolf Hitler’s empty promises of peace and is a political adversary of both Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who furtively collaborate to bring the United States into the war. Kick has no illusions about Hitler’s dangerousness: “Hitler tests my faith in a just God,” she writes. She falls in love with Billy Cavendish, the “heir to the richest duchy in England,” but their relationship is vigorously opposed by both families on religious grounds—his family is Anglican and hers, Catholic. When Billy dies in the war, Kick is crushed by despair, although she eventually falls in love again, with handsome and charming British noble Peter Fitzwilliam. Throughout this account, Braudy (Family Circle, 2004, etc.) deftly captures her subject’s lacerating wit and charming forthrightness. After her wedding night, for instance, Kick writes, “Needless to say, certain things can only improve. It is the most important night of my life.” The author also ably chronicles Kick’s work for American spy chief Gen. “Wild Bill” Donovan, who asked her to keep tabs on and distribute “fake gossip” to “commie sympathizers” in England. Overall, Braudy portrays her as a remarkably accomplished and daring woman, especially for the age. Kick also works as an editor and writer for the Washington Times-Herald, and readers can see, in her diary, the pithy humor, gimlet-eyed observation, and authorial concision that make up good journalistic writing as well as her confidence in espousing heterodox views. Braudy also provides what feels like an intimate look at the intramural squabbles and tensions of the Kennedy family; of particular interest is Kick’s devotion to her father despite his considerable character flaws, including incorrigible philandering, tyrannical impulses, parochial closed-mindedness, and mercurial anger: “How can I love Daddy and hate so much of what he says? Brother Johnny says it’s his Irish charm.” Further, the author poignantly shows Kick’s close, tender relationship with her aforementioned brother, future president John F. Kennedy, which included a shared political ideology. The anguish that Kick experiences when John’s life is imperiled during his military service is palpable. Braudy does a marvelous job of making readers feel as if they’re witnessing a confession that’s never seen the light of day—as if they’re truly stumbling upon a secret.

An impressively intelligent and buoyantly written novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-692-16707-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Blanche Wolf Publishers

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2019

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


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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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