I Smile Back

Overview

We live in an era that believes in the idea of rehabilitation and counts on the possibility of redemption. The thing is, not everyone gets better and even those who find salvation often leave a wake of destruction behind them.

In the follow-up to her acclaimed debut, A Mouthful of Air, which drew comparisons from critics to The Bell Jar and The Awakening, Amy Koppelman delivers an unrestrained statement on the modern suburban woman.

Laney ...

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Overview

We live in an era that believes in the idea of rehabilitation and counts on the possibility of redemption. The thing is, not everyone gets better and even those who find salvation often leave a wake of destruction behind them.

In the follow-up to her acclaimed debut, A Mouthful of Air, which drew comparisons from critics to The Bell Jar and The Awakening, Amy Koppelman delivers an unrestrained statement on the modern suburban woman.

Laney Brooks acts out. Married with kids, she takes the drugs she wants, sleeps with the men she wants, and disappears when she wants. Lurking beneath Laney's composed surface is the impulse to follow in the footsteps of her father, to leave and topple her family's balance in the process.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This crushing novel by the author of A Mouthful of Air is a shocking portrait of suburban ennui gone horribly awry. Laney Brooks, approaching middle age in Short Hills, N.J., appears to have it all: doting husband, two beautiful children, the big house with a kidney-shaped pool. But beneath the facade of upper-middle-class perfection, Laney's life descends into a chasm of indiscriminate sex and drug and alcohol abuse. Koppelman's prose style is understated and crackling; each sentence is laden with a foreboding sense of menace, whether she's describing a sunny Florida resort or the back alley of a seedy strip mall. Laney's self-debasement can be a bit over-the-top at times, but like a crime scene or a flaming car wreck, it becomes impossible not to stare. (Dec.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

A beautiful, thirty-something suburban housewife, Laney Brooks is married with two lovely children to a successful insurance broker and author. However, her perfect life is a facade: she drinks too much, pops pills, snorts cocaine, and sleeps with any man who catches her eye. Koppelman's portrait of this self-destructive suburban matron is wrenchingly accurate. In elegant, almost poetic prose, she guides readers through the mind-numbing activities that make up Laney's days and dissects those events that have precipitated her deep, chronic clinical depression. This short novel is not an easy read; so vividly is Laney's misery limned that as the heroine spirals downward, readers intimately share her agonies. The author, whose first novel, A Mouthful of Air, detailed a young New Yorker's postpartum depression, is becoming the spot-on chronicler of 21st-century women with mental illness. Her brave and challenging look beyond appearances of beauty to the ugly reality of a disturbed mind will remain with readers long after they've finished the book. Highly recommended for literary collections.
—Andrea Kempf

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781491531358
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 9/9/2014
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Amy Koppelman lives in New York City with her husband and two children. I Smile Back is her second novel.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2009

    well done!

    Amy Koppelman writes a courageous and compelling book with "i Smile Back". She does not make it easy for us readers but in the end we are left with characters and themes that resonate. i commend her with a job well done and look forward to more of her novels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2009

    I can't stop thinking about it! Great book group selection.

    The characters in this book are so real. Laney's character is so well developed that you feel like she is in the room with you as you read. The book is heart breaking and gorgeous! I was so sad when it was over. I can only hope that Ms. Koppelman will keep writing. And, the book led to a fascinating book group discussion, our most lively conversation all year.
    I highly recommend it.

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  • Posted May 15, 2009

    I loved this book!

    Laney's character is heartbreaking and tragic and really, really witty. Koppelman's voice jumps off the page as Laney struggles to be a modern-day wife-and-mother. Koppelman gives Laney beautifully written insights about things we all struggle with: How we are haunted by memory, suffer from our minds' incessant monologues, struggle to raise our kids conscientiously in the face of our own childhoods' failures, or as Koppelman puts it, "Gather enough strength to raise her kids with hope even though she herself exists in the fallout of that hope." And it has a literary intelligence - for example Laney's daughter Janey is only one letter away from being her mother...and on and on...For any child of divorce, for anyone who ever felt like an outsider in the school-mom scene, or at a husband's business dinner, or even just an outsider in your own life, this book is a must-read. It took hold of me and never let go.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

    Beautifully written, intense character study

    I loved this book, couldn't put it down and was disappointed the turbulent ride was over. Poetic, poignant, brave, this author dares to address the issues surrounding extreme detachment and unhappiness in even of the most privileged of circumstances.

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  • Posted April 30, 2009

    A stark and honest portrayal....

    of what it means to look at a person and truly not know what lies beneath the surface even when we are sure that we do. This seemingly perfect, has-everything-she-wants and living-the-dream character is battling demons so strong that the reader is inexplicably aware of the odds stacked against her recovery. It is apparent why some would feel threatened and uncomfortable with the dark tone. It is designed to make the reader think. I would not call Laney a likeable character but in reading her about her struggles, one cannot entirely hate her because it is all too obvious how horribly she suffers. This story gives offers a deeper dimension and a far more rounded view of the human condition at its worst.

    As for the author, it is clear that she has taken a honest-to-goodness God-given gift and honed it brilliantly. Amy's prose is deep, dark, rich, and moving. She offers a genuinely tactile experience through reading her work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2009

    Amazing

    One of my favorite authors. Beautiful and haunting.
    I couldn't put it down for a second.

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  • Posted April 26, 2009

    I can't get it out of my head-haunting and raw

    You always wonder what is behind the veneer of the person who has the "perfect life." Laney seeks a life to blot out the pain of her childhood, and the results are shocking. Ms. Koppelman writes a book that is so raw and so painful, but it is the fact that her character dives so deep into her dysfunction and makes no apologies that really grabs you. It is both refreshing and frightening at the same time. When Laney is considering her children and thinks, "Neither of them will ever know how hard I tried not to hurt them." It is heart wrenching. This book will make the reader squirm and feel uncomfortable...but it is not just because of the story, but the reader's own feelings about reality if one reflects upon themselves. Couldn't stop thinking about it.

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  • Posted April 25, 2009

    A stunning character study of a life tumbling down

    Haunting and hypnotic. What a powerful book. The author has a really original, distinctive voice.

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  • Posted April 25, 2009

    LOVED IT!!!

    Laney Brooks has relatable surface qualities but then Koppelman exposes the flip side of this housewife's life which is totally dark and depraved. But as screwed up as Laney's life is, Amy Koppelman's style of writing keeps it real. I cannot say enough how much i loved this book.

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  • Posted March 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Horrible book

    This was the most annoying, horrible book I have read in a long time. The main character, who by all accounts lives a very privileged life, can't seem to get over the fact that her father left when she was a young girl. What better way to deal with this than by snorting cocaine, drinking, and having a bunch of meaningless, disgusting affairs involving all kinds of lurid details. I was sick to my stomach after reading this. The main character was so unlikable and the entire book was awful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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