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House Lights

House Lights

4.0 1
by Leah Hager Cohen

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“Tantalizing ... captivating ... provocative.”—Booklist
Late in her twentieth year, Beatrice, who dreams of a life on the stage, is confronting a home life torn asunder. She mails a letter on the sly to her grandmother, a legendary actress long estranged from the family, sparking events that will change her life forever. Powerfully written and


“Tantalizing ... captivating ... provocative.”—Booklist
Late in her twentieth year, Beatrice, who dreams of a life on the stage, is confronting a home life torn asunder. She mails a letter on the sly to her grandmother, a legendary actress long estranged from the family, sparking events that will change her life forever. Powerfully written and psychologically intricate, House Lights illuminates the corrosive power of family secrets and the redemptive struggle to find truth, forgiveness, and love.

Editorial Reviews

Kathryn Harrison
House Lights is artfully constructed. By virtue of their length, novels forgive undisciplined descriptive flights, but Cohen writes with the scrupulousness of someone fashioning a short story, in which even the smallest details must bear their weight of significance. On the night Beatrice learns of the accusations made against her father — the night she chooses to counter her mother’s revelation by informing her mother of the implicitly disloyal letter she’s mailed to Margaret Fourcey — Beatrice drinks warm milk with her mother, who, for the first time ever, spikes it with alcohol, seemingly in an attempt to soften the impact of her husband’s misconduct. Ushered by her mother from the familiar bedtime ritual of children into the realm of grown-ups and nightcaps, Beatrice finds the new drink “sharp-tasting” in a way she savors.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In the overly precious third novel from Train Go Sorryauthor Hager Cohen, Beatrice "Bebe" Fisher-Hart is the almost 20-year-old only child of two coolly articulate Boston therapists. Bebe's parents duly swallow their mortification and allow her to remain at home, all expenses paid, when she decides to defer college to have a serious go at acting, like her estranged maternal grandmother, Margaret Fourcey. A retired theater actress with a legendary reputation, Margaret lives just across the Charles River, but Bebe hardly sees her and knows little about her life or her estrangement from the family. When Bebe finds out her revered father may have been professionally inappropriate, she lashes out in disillusion and anger, and takes refuge with Margaret. Her paternalistic relationship with theater director Hale Rubin, a 50-ish member of her grandmother's "salon," deepens. Hale is an idealized character, tailor-made to fill the gap left by Bebe's father's fall from grace, and Bebe, while more-or-less sanguinely tempered, is just this side of annoyingly narcissistic. Bebe's struggles are believable, but the hothouse atmosphere makes the stakes feel small, and Bebe herself something less than likable. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Beatrice Fisher-Hart should be in college, but her parents, who are both psychologists, allow her to defer higher education while she takes acting classes. After all, her maternal grandmother is Margaret Fourcey, grande dame of the American theater. Even though they both live in Boston, Beatrice hardly knows her grandmother owing to some lingering family estrangement. When Beatrice's father, whom she has always adored, is accused of sexual misconduct, the family starts to fall apart. Just in time, Beatrice gains entry to her grandmother's salon and is given a part in a summer production. She harbors a fierce crush on the director, and her sense of family contracts and expands as she finds her footing on stage and in matters of love. Almost palpable is Beatrice's distance from her emotions, an inherited trait she must learn to overcome. Part bildungsroman, part family drama, this latest novel from Cohen (Heart, You Bully, You Punk) is a hit. For most fiction collections.
—Keddy Ann Outlaw

Kirkus Reviews
A wannabe actress confronts dramas that disable her high-achieving family in this heartfelt third novel from the Massachusetts author (Without Apology: Girls, Women, and the Desire to Fight, 2005, etc.). When 20-year-old Beatrice Fisher-Hart is granted a free year to live at home and pursue her thespian dreams, she crosses a hitherto firmly drawn line by reestablishing contact with her maternal grandmother Margaret Fourcey, a celebrated stage actress from whom "Bebe's" mother-Cambridge psychologist Sarah-has been estranged for many years. As Bebe becomes a regular at Margaret's Beacon Hill "salon," her growing intimacy with its beautiful people is compromised by two unconventional relationships: her May-December crush on middle-aged theater director Hale Rubin, and baffled feelings about the mess into which her father Jeremy (also a psychologist and a college teacher) has again gotten himself-by making inappropriately suggestive remarks to yet another female student. Bebe's confusions are further exacerbated as she learns more of the family history that divides her mother and grandmother, and they come to a head during a summer spent at a farm in the Berkshires, where the production in which Hale has cast her-as one of several classic lovers who defied convention-is rehearsed and performed. It's somewhat surprising when the novel leaps ahead nearly 30 years for a muted ending that reveals choices and compromises Bebe has made, and the partial relaxation of her anger toward her errant, needy father. Cohen, who practices a domestic realism that has earned her comparisons to Sue Miller and Anne Tyler (but is actually closer to that of Elizabeth Berg and Luanne Rice), writes smoothly and withgenuine conviction. But her well-manicured fiction has few lifelike rough edges, and even its most emotional moments feel superficial and overfamiliar. Not as dramatic as Cohen clearly intends it to be.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Leah Hager Cohen has written seven books, including Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World, and the novels Heat Lightning and Heart, You Bully, You Punk. She lives with her three children in Belmont, Massachusetts.

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House Lights 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago