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Kitchen Privileges

Kitchen Privileges

4.4 17
by Mary Higgins Clark

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Dear Reader,

Kitchen Privileges is a book that I feel as though I have been writing ever since I was twelve years old.

In these pages, I've tried to show how my mother's belief in me kept alive my dream to be a writer. My father's early death left her with three young children to support. A generation later my husband's early death left me in exactly


Dear Reader,

Kitchen Privileges is a book that I feel as though I have been writing ever since I was twelve years old.

In these pages, I've tried to show how my mother's belief in me kept alive my dream to be a writer. My father's early death left her with three young children to support. A generation later my husband's early death left me in exactly that position except that I had five children.

Mother supported us by renting rooms, allowing our paying guests to have the privilege of preparing light meals in the kitchen. I supported my family by writing radio shows. Very early in the morning I put my typewriter on the kitchen table before I went to work in Manhattan and spent a few privileged and priceless hours working on my first novel.

I have found that dreams do come true, and I hope that anyone reading this book may feel encouraged to follow his or her own dreams even when the odds against achieving them seem great.

Editorial Reviews

Paul Evans
There are two things you're likely to encounter in any American airport: long security lines and the novels of Mary Higgins Clark. Since hitting it big in 1975 with the mystery Where Are the Children?, Clark has written more than thirty bestselling books, which have sold fifty million copies in the United States alone, earning her the title "Queen of Suspense." In April 2000, she signed a five-book deal with Simon & Schuster worth an astonishing $64 million. At the age of seventy-four, the woman is an industry, the publishing world's equivalent of Dunkin' Donuts in her zest for turning out product. It isn't just Americans who can't get enough of her. Clark is an international star whose books have been translated into thirty-one languages. The inscrutable French government has accorded her its Grand Prix de Literature, though the ghost of Voltaire would likely find this maneuver droll. Even Pope John Paul II knows her name: A few years ago, he bestowed upon her the title Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great.

So there's some anticipation for her new memoir, Kitchen Privileges. Certainly the author of such dramas as Moonlight Becomes You, The Plot Thickens and The Cradle Will Fall must have a dramatic story of her own. And while only the naive would assume that Clark herself might be as entertaining as her relentlessly plucky heroines, there's little that could prepare fans for what they'll find in her memoir. Crack open the book to most any page and you'll encounter passages like this: "I'd had a Saturday job at Lord & Taylor selling coats. The pay had been five dollars a day, but the real perk was the 30 percent employee discount.... I'd keep an eye on a dress or suit that I wanted, sure that at some point it would be reduced, then track it until the final reduction and buy it with my 30 percent discount."


It turns out that Kitchen Privileges is one of the most yawn-inducing autobiographies in recent memory. While Clark is of course entitled to an ordinary life of everyday joys and pathos, we do hope for some interesting meditation on her extraordinary career, whether it's straight talk about her writing and success, some tips of the trade, the inside skinny on publishing, a few anecdotes about how she contrives her plots. This is an author, after all, who's spun tales about everything from parapsychology to politics, cruise ships to the death penalty, child molesting to haute couture.

The book begins with Clark's nostalgia for her blue-collar, Depression-era childhood in the Bronx. We don't get much about girl Mary other than a collection of stock answers and platitudes. Her "Emerald Isle" ancestry gave her the gift of gab; her mom was a saint. Clark does write affectingly, if briefly, about her relationship with her father, who died when she was ten, only to barrel ahead once again into minutiae.

We learn a bit, but not much, about her stint at an ad agency; we're told about the glamour of her years as a Pan Am stewardess, but we're never shown what made the job so glamorous. Infatuated with the fiction in Ladies' Home Journal and Redbook, Clark begins to write around the time she marries her first husband, Warren, in 1949 (she does write convincingly of their romance). Nothing if not dogged, she works six years before selling a story, for one hundred dollars, to a magazine, but we're not privy to the details of her struggle. Leaving five children behind, Warren dies in 1964; Mary perseveres, rising daily at 5 a.m. to write. She publishes her first book, Aspire to the Heavens, a biographical novel of George and Martha Washington, in 1969. With booksellers mis-shelving it as an inspirational guide, the book bombs. Less than a decade later, her second suspense novel, A Stranger Is Watching, sells for a million dollars.

There's a pretty great story here—a kind of Horatio Alger saga of overcoming adversity with grit—but we never find out how her work went from the rejection pile to the bookshelf nearest the cash register. Her yarns about her apprenticeship writing radio programs aren't very revealing, and when she lets us in on the one great bit of advice she received from a New York University writing instructor—"Ask yourself two questions, 'Suppose?' and 'What if?'"—we're left to wonder: That's the secret? In the end, Clark bafflingly sticks to a sort of laundry-list narrative—flat gossip about house buying, vacations, firing maids.

The memoir leads us up to the sale of Where Are the Children? and then abruptly flashes forward to an epilogue crammed with teasingly intriguing stuff—her return to school (to study philosophy at Fordham!), a second marriage (on which she expends exactly thirteen words), and a third marriage (which we're pleased to learn is blissful, although we're not sure why).

By adamantly failing to tell us much of anything about her inner life, Mary Higgins Clark makes it impossible for us to care much about it. A shame, then, that the one tale this veteran storyteller blows turns out to be her own.
Publishers Weekly
Clark, author of 27 bestselling novels, has shifted gears and written a memoir that speaks directly to readers. The touching collection of anecdotes begins with a Depression-era childhood in the Bronx lacking in money but rich with love. The author's mother, who told everyone, "Mary is very gifted... [she's] going to be a successful writer," supplemented her income by renting out rooms with "kitchen privileges," and raised her children with selfless heroism, proving a shining example when Clark became a young widow, left to bring up five children on her own. The book proves particularly engaging when Clark tells of her writing group and the professor, William Byron Mowery, who taught her to think "what if" and "suppose" as a way of devising interesting plots. She conveys her courtship with her first husband sensitively and humorously, and writes of his death in honest, understated prose. Clark charts her literary road frankly, pointing out the numerous rejection slips and the failure of her first book, Aspire to the Heavens-the love story of George and Martha Washington-due to a misleading, uncommercial title. It's typical of her optimism that she considered it a triumph ("I knew... I had what it took to actually write a book"). Ranging from stories of illness and struggle to her happy 1996 marriage to Merrill Lynch CEO John Conheeney, this memoir shows what can be done when someone pursues her dreams, remains action-oriented and fights to overcome enormous obstacles. Photos. Agents, Eugene Winick, Sam Pinkus. (Nov. 19) Forecast: Clark's many fans will be clamoring for this, and although it's not a self-help volume, it offers concise, valuable tips for aspiring authors, which could open it up to an even wider audience.
Library Journal
With a sharp eye for detail, keen intelligence to understanding reality, and her inquisitive nature to create stories, best-selling author Clark meditates on the hardships of growing up during the Depression in Bronx, NY. Though not dismal about experiences with family and friends, Clark recounts many characteristics of Irish American culture that had a strong hold on her life. Her voice is soothing, giving the impression that a senior adult member is explaining her life. When her father died, Clark's mother opened their home to boarders with the sign, "Furnished Rooms, Kitchen Privileges." Similarly, following the untimely death of her beloved husband, Warren, Clark pursued a career writing stories to support her five children and was propelled into scriptwriting for a radio show. She reminisces about the wonders of youth, taking the listener down a lane full of cultural and historical lessons. Highly recommended for public, academic, and school libraries.-Bernadette Lopez-Fitzsimmons, Manhattan Coll. Libs., Riverdale, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 5 CDs, 5 hrs.
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 5.94(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Even as a young girl, growing up in the Bronx, Mary Higgins Clark knew she wanted to be a writer, The gift of storytelling was a part of her Irish ancestry, so it followed naturally that she would later use her sharp eye, keen intelligence, and inquisitive nature to create stories.

Along with all Americans, citizens of the Bronx suffered during the Depression. So when Mary's father died, her mother opened the family home to boarders and placed a discreet sign next to the front door that read, "Furnished Rooms. Kitchen Privileges."

The family's struggle to make ends meet; her days as a scholarship student in an exclusive girls academy; the death of her beloved older brother in World War II; her marriage to Warren Clark; writing stories at the kitchen table; finally selling the first one for one hundred dollars, after six years and forty rejections -- all these experiences figure into Kitchen Privileges.

Her husband's untimely death left her a widowed mother of five young children. Determined to care for her family an& to make a career for herself, she wrote scripts for a radio show. In her spare time she began writing novels. Where Are The Children? became an international bestseller and launched her career.

When asked if she might consider giving up writing for a life of leisure, Marv has replied, "Never. To be happy for a year, win the lottery. To be happy for life, do what you love."

Meet the Author

#1 New York Times bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark has written thirty-two suspense novels; three collections of short stories; an historical novel, Mount Vernon Love Story; and a memoir, Kitchen Privileges and two children’s books, The Magical Christmas Horse and Ghost Ship. She is the coauthor with Carol Higgins Clark of five suspense novels: Dashing Through the Snow, Deck the Halls, He Sees You When You’re Sleeping, The Christmas Thief, and Santa Cruise. More than 100 million copies of her books are in print in the United States alone, and her books are worldwide bestsellers.

Brief Biography

Saddle River, New Jersey and New York, New York
Date of Birth:
December 24, 1929
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
New York University; B.A., Fordham University, 1979

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Kitchen Privileges 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Paula Archer More than 1 year ago
I have read almost all of Mary's books and I have love all of them, but I think so far this was the best. Getting to know about the write is great.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Mary Higgins Clark has been a best selling author of suspense for what seems forever though her first book was a bio of George and Martha Washington. Ms. Clark returns to the world of non-fiction with an autobiography that may be her best work to date. Ms. Clark warmly discusses her life growing up in the Bronx, a very harsh one due the Depression. Even more heartwarming is her ¿courtship¿ and first marriage that should have turned Ms. Clark into a romance writer instead of the queen of suspense. She follows this up with the tragedy of suddenly raising children, as a widow with income problems until her first sale brings in needed cash. Finally, she discusses her second chance at love with her second marriage. Throughout the book, Ms. Clark displays her love for writing without padding fluff or an outrageous scandal. Instead the author¿s myriad of fans and readers who enjoy a well written insightful biography will take delight with this encouraging story that does not apologize for Ms. Clark following her dreams and encourages others to do likewise. For attaining one¿s dreams is how to attain happiness. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first listened to this book on tape while driving from Cincinnati to Atlanta 3 years ago. I enjoyed the story so much I decided I wanted to buy the book. I was disappointed to find the book was no longer sold in stores. This past Christmas I received the Nook GlowLight from my husband and the first book I purchased was Kitchen Privileges. I am not much of a reader, but the way Mary Clark Higgins describes her life was so enlighting to me. She has had ups and downs in her life,as we all do, hearing and reading how she stayed on course was encouraging to me. If I ever come across the hard cover book, I will purchase it too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found a lot of myself in MHC. If you have an affinity for the old days and for writing--and also New York--you will especially enjoy this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Mary Higgins Clark and this is one of my favorites. Very well written!
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Bernimarie More than 1 year ago
I am at a point in my life where I can finally take time to read books. The one's I find most interesting are biographies. I have never read any of Mary Higgins Clark's novels, nor had I known anything about her--until now. She experienced so much love and happiness in her life--but also more than her share of sorrow and disappointment. Just when you think things can't get any worse for her, they do! But, her Faith, her family and her perseverance pulled her through! As a mother of four myself, I can't imagine dealing with everything she had to deal with. I have so much respect for how she lived her life with a positive attitude and determination, when others would have given up. Mary's mother played an important role in her life and helped to make Mary the strong woman she is today. And Mary, herself, also has impacted her own children's lives--a legacy that I'm sure will continue on for generations to come. I feel I know her and I will make an exception and read my first novel--a Mary Higgins Clark one!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
great book. i can relate to a lot of the things you went through as a child brought up in an Irish Catholic family.What a wonderful exercise in love. Your book was great and I can't wait for your next book. You signed a book I have and I will treasure it forever. You are my favorite writer. I just wish you could write a book a month. I think I have every book you have ever written. Keep up the good work. I am retired and look forward to your new books. Thank you so vey much.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished the audiobook and really enjoyed it, especially because of it being read by Mary herself. I have read a number of her books and after reading Marys story it will bring a new light to her books
Guest More than 1 year ago
i can usually count on this author for an enjoyable read...usually quick and painless, nothing that stretches you too much...just an easy read. Kitchen Privileges missed the mark. Higgins-Clark is a great author but her memoir is a snore! sorry!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am astonished at how pallid, uninspired, even poorly written this book is. Miss Clark¿s life may be interesting to her and interesting, perhaps, because she became a famous author, but in actuality it is no more interesting than the most ordinary life. It could be yours or mine. As surprised as I am by the lackluster content of the book, I am even more surprised by the lackluster quality of the writing. ¿Rare as hen¿s teeth¿ and ¿We took to marriage like ducks to water¿ are clichés no professional writer should allow herself. They abound. Miss Clark even used the pronoun ¿I¿ instead of ¿we,¿ a surprising error. I enjoy memoirs and especially memoirs by writers, but this one is unmemorable. Read, instead, Eudora Welty¿s One Writer¿s Beginnings. Now there is a memoir.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Does any reader have to be told who Mary Higgins Clark is? I think not. But, now with this remarkably candid and affecting memoir the author of 27 bestselling novels tells her personal story. Not only that, this recollection is related in her own voice, making it all the more meaningful. Rather than through a fictional protagonist she speaks directly to us with words of encouragement and hope. Beginning with a childhood in the Bronx during the Depression Ms. Clark had dreams - she dreamed of becoming a writer, and her mother encouraged her even though the older woman struggled to make ends meet by renting out rooms. A sign was placed by the front door reading, "Furnished Rooms. Kitchen Privileges." Ms. Clark's days as a student at an exclusive girl's school came to an end; she lost an older brother whom she deeply loved during World War II. She tells with affection and sensitivity of her marriage to Warren Clark, and the birth of their children. A devastating blow occurred when he died unexpectedly leaving her widowed with five young children. Nonetheless, she soldiered on, writing at a kitchen table. For her labors? Forty rejections. Determined to reach her goal and support her family she wrote radio scripts and began work on a novel. The rest is literary history. Ms. Clark generously shares her life experiences, reminding us that dreams can come true when someone is willing to persist and fight mightily for them.