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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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