A too-familiar 12-step two-step.


A debut novel about AA, romance and recovery, set in West Hollywood.

Delia is a recovering alcoholic with ten years of sobriety, a loving husband, a two-year-old daughter and a happy home life in Seattle. Then she gets the call she has been dreading for a decade. Timothy, her beloved gay friend from AA, is dying. When he was first diagnosed with HIV, Delia promised she would be by his side at the end. And so, with the loving encouragement of her “normie” (AA term for a non-addict) husband, Delia travels back to West Hollywood, the site of her childhood, her teenage appetite for booze, crack, ’ludes and other pharmaceuticals, and the flameout that landed her in rehab. It was there she met Timothy, and where the two supported each other until both were clean. Delia’s return to California triggers memories of her struggles to stay sober, her parents’ anger at all the trouble she caused and her unresolved feelings about the death of her sponsor, Joan, her first marriage and her attraction to James, the man who always tempted Delia to walk on the wild side. Told mostly in flashbacks, with the focus on Delia (though it is Timothy who is dying), this novel presents an ensemble cast of addict-stereotypes: Zodiac, the black crack-whore who keeps falling off the wagon; Joan, the older, spiritually certain sponsor who wears gauzy white clothes; Delia’s dad, the high-powered narcissist and functioning alcoholic; Delia’s mom, the classic enabler; Rafael, the dry drunk in shut-down mode; and Delia herself, who thrives in her sobriety and becomes a chemical-dependency counselor. Blackburn, also a chemical-dependency counselor, obviously knows her material: The AA meetings and late-night coffee and cigarette klatches ring so true that the tobacco smoke practically wafts off the page. But the story never moves beyond the emotional level of case histories. And it’s inevitable that good intentions will prevail.

A too-familiar 12-step two-step.

Pub Date: May 23, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-35158-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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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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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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