March 28, 2013 · 9:28 am
Men and Dogs: A Novel by Katie Crouch (Little, Brown & Company, $13.00, 304 pages; Unabridged audiobook on 7 CDs, narrated by Gabra Zackman, $29.98)
Women coping with the traumas of their past, especially in middle age, seems to be a fascinating topic for many authors who are themselves women. Men and Dogs features Hanna Legare, a daughter of the South whose life trajectory has landed her on the West Coast – at Stanford University followed by a business career and marriage in San Francisco.
At the beginning of this tale, the focus of Hanna’s obsessive energy is the disappearance of her father, Dr. Buzz Legare, a well-liked and good-looking man. The event, a boating accident, took place in April of 1985 in Charleston, South Carolina, Hanna’s birthplace. Hanna refuses to believe that her father is dead. She constantly badgers her family and people from her past demanding a clear-cut explanation for the lack of a body or evidence that Dr. Legare has actually died.
After setting the theme of the novel, author Crouch brings the reader (or, in this reviewer’s case, the audiobook listener) to the year 2009 when Hanna brings her obsession to the boiling point. Her husband and business partner, Jon, seems to be fed up with the indiscretions and affairs she has indulged in over the last few years. Hanna’s defense, dating all the way back to high school, is that she has difficulty feeling secure and, therefore, she uses sex as a way of feeling in control. Hanna’s brother, Palmer, who is gay and veterinarian in Charleston, has also been unable to commit to a lasting relationship. The threads of their unraveling lives cross when Hanna goes back to Charleston for a time-out.
At first the story seems to be a novel/mystery complete with a well-developed set of characters. By two-thirds of the way through, a new theme becomes apparent – that of a cautionary tale. Perhaps a listener or reader who is herself entering middle age would find a sense of life’s lessons as the last of the story unfolds. For this reviewer, the message is clear; do not dwell on the past. Hanna could have benefitted by reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.
The audiobook was purchased by the reviewer’s husband. Katie Crouch is also the author of Girls in Trucks: A Novel.
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November 12, 2012 · 11:51 am
The Roundup – Some Quick Looks at Books
Wife 22: A Novel by Melanie Gideon (Ballantine Books) – Gideon’s creative novel is an all-too-much-fun story of a mid-life crisis wife who elects to take part in a marriage survey, and then decides that she might have fallen in love with the researcher assigned to work with her. “Soon I’ll have to make a decision – one that will affect my family, my marriage, my whole life.” Will Wife 22 sacrifice everything for a man she’s never seen or spoken to (and only exchanged e-mail messages with)? This is a story with an ending that the reader will never see coming – unless that reader just happens to remember a certain quite clever hit song from the year 1980.
“…when did the real world become so empty? When everybody abandoned it for the Internet?” Wife 22 is a novel about current times, in which human beings communicate by each and every means except true personal, face-to-face communication.
Jack 1939: A Novel by Francine Mathews (Riverhead Books) – Mathews came up with a great premise in this fictional account of a young John F. Kennedy. President Franklin D. Roosevelt secretly recruits JFK to be his spy in Europe during the period preceding the outbreak of World War II. The engaging, charismatic personality of JFK is here, but the intelligence of the future world leader is missing in action.
Fairy Tale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love and Loss by Rosemarie Terenzo (Gallery Books) – John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s former executive assistant tells us about what it was like to have the “dream job” of working for America’s Prince. It’s a fascinating account told by Terenzo, a young blue-collar Italian-American girl from the Bronx who became John’s scheduler and gatekeeper. The problem is that it feels like half a memoir; the deaths of John and his wife Carolyn Bessette in July of 1999 tragically interrupted the charged personal lives chronicled here. (Terenzo recalls that her final conversation with John was sadly banal.)
Discretion: A Novel by Allison Leotta (Touchstone) – Some readers will no doubt find this to be an exciting political-thriller about a young woman killed while visiting a U.S. Congressman’s hideaway office in the U.S. Capitol Building. But I was never able to suspend my disbelief in the main characters, especially the female protagonist, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Curtis. Curtis’s criminal investigation extends into the most sordid sexual aspects of the District of Columbia. It just seemed unnecessarily overblown.
The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande (Atria Books) – This is a sad, yet moving and life affirming true story of three impoverished children in Mexico whose parents abandon them in order to escape to “El Otro Lado” (The Other Side, the United States). Overcoming many obstacles, the two sisters and their brother eventually find their way to Los Angeles, where they discover that their parents are living apart from each other. Despite such a horrendous upbringing, the siblings survive and Reyna goes on to both forgive her dying father and to graduate from the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC).
Review copies were provided by the publishers.
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Tagged as 1939, 1980, A Memoir, A Memoir of Life, a novel, Allison Leotta, Anna Curtis, Atria Books, Ballantine Books, book review site wordpress, book reviews, California, Carolyn Bessette, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, creative novel, crime novel, Discretion, District of Columbia, El Otro Lado, Fairy Tale Interrupted, FDR, fiction, five books, Francine Mathews, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gallery Books, immigrants, Jack 1939, JFK, John F. Kennedy, Joseph Arellano, Joseph's Reviews, Kindle Edition, Los Angeles, love and loss, marriage novel, marriage survey, Melanie Gideon, Mexico, mid-life crisis, murder novel, nonfiction, Nook Book, political-legal thriller, poverty, recommended books, Reyna Grande, Riverhead Books, Rosemarie Terenzo, Some Quick Looks at Books, The Distance Between Us, The Other Side, The Roundup, the United States, thriller, Touchstone, UCSC, University of California at Santa Cruz, Wordpress book review site, World War II, young John Kennedy