Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyIn this superb, melancholy novel about coming apart in California, Carpenter ( The Dispossessed ; The Class of '49 ) immediately embroils his characters in a chaotic Thanksgiving feast that culminates in an all-night poker game. The party's hostess is beautiful, 45-year-old divorcee Jackie Jeminovski, a serious drinker who misses her glory days with the airlines when ``stews had cachet.'' Among those who drop by are Jackie's ex-husband Steven, a lawyer and womanizer, and her jobless dropout son Derek, 20, who is hungry, unsure and utterly engaging. Carpenter brilliantly delineates Jackie's obsessive descent into boozy blackouts, and Derek's corresponding slide into crime, lured by the street smarts of a manic, spiky-haired youth named Burns. Derek's odyssey takes him on a robbing spree, then to a queasy meeting with his father, to jail and, eventually, to a job that raises his meager self-esteem. Derek's adventure, the novel's centerpiece, is paralleled by a raucous epic double-date, in which Jackie and Kitty, an aging waitress, drink and drive all over L.A. with their hoary, wealthy beaux. Within a plot that is entertainingly roving and episodic, Carpenter treats readers to a penetrating view of characters whose lives are tinged by a sad glow of disillusion. (Nov.)
Library JournalLess a novel than a collection of anecdotes, this book looks at a few depressing months in the lives of some interrelated characters: Jackie, an aging former stewardess and divorcee, slipping inexorably toward an alcoholic death; Derek, Jackie's son, a failure at college and everything else he has ever tried, dallying with a life of crime, but not particularly good at that, either; and Kitty, Jackie's friend, pushing 60 and still living hand-to-mouth as a waitress, watching Jackie slip toward the edge but unable to stop her. Suddenly, with no explanation, Derek straightens out, Jackie sobers up, and Kitty drops dead, leaving the rest of us wondering what this was all for. Marcia R. Hoffman, M.L.S., Hoechst Celanese Corp., Somerville, N.J.
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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