FOUR OF A KIND

Four women approaching middle age find insight and inspiration at the poker table, in Frankel’s breezy latest (It’s Hard Not to Hate You, 2010, etc.).

To form the new PTA diversity committee at her sons’ elite Brooklyn Heights private school, blond yummy-mummy Bess chooses three other mothers as different from herself as possible. There’s Carla, an African-American pediatrician who, with her manipulative husband Claude, is struggling to afford the high tuition that will keep their sons from slipping out of the middle class. Robin, who lives off her inheritance, was once obese. Slim post-stomach-staple, she’s looking on in horror as daughter Stephanie, conceived in a one-night stand with a suspected “chubby-chaser,” must wear a size 14 at age 10. Advertising copywriter Alicia, whose son Joe was born after a long struggle with infertility, is going through a sexual dry spell: Her husband Tim, a stay-at-home dad, seems to have lost all conjugal interest. The first meeting of these four takes an unexpected turn: Bess announces they will play Texas Hold ’Em, but, in deference to the bad economy, the stakes will be not money but secrets. She herself reveals the hidden flaws in her outwardly perfect life: Unlike Tim, Bess’ Wall Street insider husband Borden is oversexed. Her mother, Simone, a second-wave feminist icon, is trying to drive a wedge between Bess and teenage daughter Amy. As the poker nights progress, diversity in the politically correct sense is never discussed: instead the women find that their new connection is more and more crucial as each faces turning points, including Claude’s impending job loss, Alicia’s affair with a younger colleague, the unexpected reappearance of Robin’s chubby-chaser in her and Stephanie’s lives, Amy’s increasing slovenliness and declaration of lesbian leanings and Borden’s depression following his father’s death. Although the closing empowerment scenarios are a bit pat, the poker conceit is an artful framing device, and the four women and their dilemmas are portrayed with Frankel’s trademark witty empathy.

 

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-52540-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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