A light, accessible coming-of-age story well-suited for beach and romance fans.


Water Baby

A novel follows a young woman in the 1960s who dates all the wrong guys as she bungles her way into adulthood.

Ali Abrams is a young college graduate whose family spends its summers on idyllic Fire Island. The clan’s tranquility is threatened by the actions of urban developer Robert Moses, who wants to commandeer the island for his own purposes. Amid this political strife, Ali struggles to find her own place in her social, family, and professional life. Ali falls hard for an older man on the island, a singer by the name of Nick Rose. Nick indulges Ali with a few dalliances, but he is clearly less than committed. Ali eventually moves on, developing relationships with one ill-suited man after another. First there is bad boy Eric London, who can’t keep his eyes from wandering, and then a long string of one-night stands and short-lived romances. After watching Ali stumble with one man after another, her friend Jordan Kaplan accuses her of acting like Scarlett O’Hara, squandering the affection of the only man who is truly devoted to her (Jordan himself). He convinces Ali to see a therapist to deal with her self-destructive behavior. The therapist persuades Ali to take a hiatus from her fruitless dating and focus on herself and her burgeoning advertising career. As she travels between Park Avenue and Fire Island, Manhattan offices and island cocktail parties, the reader can only hope that Ali will get out of her own way and attain personal happiness. The book delivers plenty of vibrant historical details about Fire Island, Manhattan, New York City socialites, and the ad industry of the ’60s. At one point, Ali rhapsodizes about the Rainbow Room (“Breathtaking. Magical. Sophisticated. Art deco. Big band orchestra live, revolving dance floor, wraparound views of the glittering skyline, the Hudson, the Statue of Liberty. It defined elegance and romance right out of a Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers movie”). But Israelson’s (co-author of Lovesick: The Marilyn Syndrome, 1991, etc.) tale is as much about one woman’s personal journey as it is about the pressure to be desirable, to find love, and to conform to society’s expectations. Although Ali’s poor choices start to feel repetitive and frustrating as the story progresses, the accessible prose should keep readers turning pages in the anticipation that Ali will finally find fulfillment.

A light, accessible coming-of-age story well-suited for beach and romance fans.

Pub Date: July 20, 2017

ISBN: 9780999004302

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2017

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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